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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990

Book Reviews

tural variables, and the exploration of these gives the book its strength
and appeal. The authors write from the perspectives of history, litera-
ture, anthropology, sociology, and law, and the resulting essays focus
variously on ethnography, demographics, and the interpretation of di-
aries and memoirs. From this cross-cultural perspective some unifying
themes emerge: women who enjoy greater autonomy during marriage
are less likely to be economically and socially handicapped by widow-
hood, and a support network of family, community, and church signifi-
cantly enhances the widow's ability to cope.
In both these respects widows in the Native American and Hispanic
subcultures of the Southwest have fared better than those of the domi-
nant Anglo-American culture. Before native cultural patterns began to
be eroded by European traditions, matrilineal and matrifocal societies
such as the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo always separated the assets of hus-
bands and wives and gave control of the community's agricultural land
and crops to women. In such cultures the death of a woman's husband
did not seriously affect her social or economic status. Hispanic women
likewise shared the stability of a rural agricultural environment and an
extended kinship network, plus the sustaining ritual and ceremony of
the Catholic Church. In Arizona and New Mexico they had the addi-
tional advantage of living under Spanish-derived civil law, which, un-
like English common law, gave married women half of the couple's
community property and testamentary rights over it.
Deep religious faith and a strong sense of community also helped
sustain Mormon widows; significantly, those few who had been plural
wives tended to be more self-reliant because of their experience as vir-
tual single parents during the shared husband's lifetime. Protestant
Anglo women living in monogamous marriages and nuclear familes-
the dominant pattern in American culture-have tended to suffer the
most severe emotional and economic dislocation from the loss of a hus-
band, unless they are fortunate enough to inherit a substantial estate.
Ultimately, Scadron emphasizes in her conclusion, "the critical impor-
tance of a woman's economic situation" is the "significant common fac-
tor" (p. 303) controlling the experience of widowhood. In this, south-
western women may perhaps regret that the culture that left women
most vulnerable during widowhood ultimately predominated.
University of Texas at Austin JUDITH N. McARTHUR
O Freedom! Afro-Amercan Emancipation Celebratzons. By William H. Wig-
gins, Jr. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987.
Pp. xxi+2o7. Preface, introduction, maps, illustrations, notes, bib-
liography, index. $24.95.)


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 29, 2016.

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