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Advocating 'the man': Masculinity, organized labor, and the market revolution in New York, 1800--1840

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:08 authored by Joshua R. Greenberg

This dissertation argues that conceptions of domestic and workplace masculinity informed working men's responses to the market revolution in early nineteenth-century New York City. I utilize a prosopography of labor organizers to emphasize the importance of organized journeymen's household and neighborhood relationships. As family breadwinners and fathers, thousands of men turned to the collective strength of trades unions and the Working Men's Party in order to fulfill domestic obligations. Organized workers grounded their labor activities and rhetoric within larger discussions of household strike benefits, family leisure time, children's education, and even birth control, but they also realized that their endeavors hinged upon their position as skilled craftsmen who played a central role in the economy. Journeymen thus championed their artisanal prowess while defending perceived threats to their craft standing from female workers, African-American workers, foreign workers, apprentices, unskilled male workers, and prison laborers. Through diverse sources---plays about bankers and dandies written during the Panic of 1819 by a journeyman bookbinder, debates by Working Men's Party factions about morality and birth control, labor conspiracy trial transcripts, and comic valentines which questioned tailors' manliness---I demonstrate a critical relationship between conceptions of domestic and workplace masculinity and the nascent labor movement. "Advocating 'the Man'" addresses lacunae in the historical literatures on labor, gender, and household economy. By placing gender at the center of an examination of labor organizing, this study challenges existing scholarship on working men and the market revolution of the early nineteenth century. Rather than artisan republicanism or a particularized class consciousness as the source of working men's identity, I argue that domestic issues and concerns guided workplace and political reactions to the new industrial economy. In addition, my dissertation critiques recent nineteenth-century gender studies that focus on women or middle-class men while relegating journeymen to rowdy plebian stereotypes such as firemen, rioters, or tavern denizens. My dissertation instead views these men primarily as domestic actors, situating their forays into political or workplace arenas in relation to their household duties and obligations.

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American University

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English

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Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2003.

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http://hdl.handle.net/1961/thesesdissertations:3060

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application/pdf

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Part of thesis digitization project, awaiting processing.

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