The studies about the womens emancipation, rights, and positions in the history can be found in many academic researches. However, Miroslava Chavez-Garcia’s book “Negotiating Conquest: Gender and Power in California, 1770s-1880s” is known to be one of the most precise researches that covered the dismissed history of so-called “West women”.
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The study analyzes the methods, which were used by Native and Mexican women to rebel the traditional Mexican, American and Spanish cultures in California rejecting the unstable contingencies from Spanish Catholic imposition in 1770s to Euro-American Protestant capitalist in 1880s. The author proceeds from the Spanish invasion to Mexican period in California in the six chapters. She focuses on the family relationships, the position of the women, the women rights.
The main themes in Miroslavas research are the class, the ethnicity and the gender. Therefore, the main research questions are: How have women dealt with the class-, ethnicity- and gender-based hierarchies given by Mexican men authority? and In which manner were the Mexican mens and womens positions weakened by the Spanish conquest?
The basic methodology which was used in the book is chronological approach, as the book covers the period from 1770s to 1880s. We cant but mention the descriptive method, the inter-subject analysis and the data analysis. The author has analyzed much data information, summarized it, and provided the deep analysis.
The primary sources used in the research are numerous court cases on local, country and federal levels. In addition, the author researched territorial and local land records; churches, census and city council records; the variety of newspapers and families collections of papers.
The first chapter is devoted to the sexual violence in the late eighteenth century. The author argues that the understanding of sexual differences was shaped by the Spanish conquest. In addition, she came to the conclusion that women had found many methods to rebel the patriarchs during the Mexican period.
She investigates how women got marriage and the process of family immigration according to the Spanish settlement strategy. Due to this strategy, the marriage, Hepatic women and the family were crucial elements in producing the stable society, which was needed for the Spanish conquest.
Examining legitimacy, inheritance, and divorce, the author shows the way in which Mexican womens and mens positions were weakened by the Spanish conquest on the one hand, and the social relationships between the men and Mexican women, on the other hand.
Having researched the documents of the legal courts, Miroslava Chavez-Garcia confirmed that the gender issues played a crucial role in California in the periods of Mexican and Spanish eras. Californian, Mexican, and Native American women used the legal system and property rights in Spanish and Mexican California in order to improve their living conditions and achieve independence.
According to the author, the women were good at conducting negotiations. In order to achieve the upward mobility, they used Negotiation Conquest. One of the parts of negotiating the womens emancipation and power was negotiating the mens power.
Nevertheless, although most of the researched documents were set in 1840s and many parts were lost, the author managed to make the conclusion that women were very good at manipulating. Thus, the women had a right to sue their husbands if they were irresponsible fathers, or illegally owned the lands. The power shift led to the womens independence, which, in its turn, led to the decrease of physical abuse among women.
In Chapter 4, the author highlights the divorce theme. She claims that the experience of women who sought divorce in California was historically significant, as the possibility to divorce only stimulated the will to challenge the husbands and stop intolerant marriages. The divorce was the only possible opportunity for women to recover their rights for the property, which they owned before marriage.
What is more, the majority of women didnt choose the option to divorce, because they didnt want to disturb the principles of morality. However, the minority of those, who asked for divorce, and changed their life for good, made the significant impact on those who couldnt do that. As a result, very soon the number of women who was not afraid of divorce had increased.
Miroslava Chavez-Garcias research showed that the legal opportunity to divorce changed the society a lot. Especially, the focus should be made on the peoples way of thinking. Many social changes impacted Spanish-speaking and Native American women after the American conquest of California.
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Chapter 5 describes that the changes in the legal and political systems have undermined womens economic status. In addition, ethic biases have greatly affected Native American women curtailing civil and land rights.
In 1850-60s the law, according to which Native Americans were excluded from the cultural, social and legal worlds inhabited by Mexicans, Euro-Americans and Californians, was enacted. The most important change, though, was the womens ability to be independent and possibility to sustain their families and themselves.
The story in Chapter 6 shows the post-conquest factor with increased illegitimacy for children, whose mothers were Native American or Spanish women. The abandoned women were forced to seek for economic opportunities somewhere far from Los Angeles. In order to survive and support their children, they had to find other men. The story is very interesting as it shows the women who are ready to protect their children under any circumstances, and their readiness for sacrifice.