Women and Urban Change in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1820-1868

Felix V. Matos Rodriguez

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"A potential watershed in Puerto Rican historiography. . . . the only women’s history work which investigates the full sweep of the tumultuous 19th century in Puerto Rico, and thus the only one which has the potential for providing true historical depth to the study of women’s experience."---Eileen J. Findlay, American University

Dispelling the common perception of Puerto Rico as a male-dominated society, Women and Urban Change in San Juan examines the roles of women in the economic and social changes that affected the Puerto Rican capital during the mid-19th century. Félix V. Matos Rodríguez studies the full mosaic of Puerto Rican women during this period, examining the ways in which the women of San Juan reacted to the pressures of race and class on their lives.
Matos Rodríguez discusses attempts on behalf of colonial officials and the local elite to modernize the city by emulating the development patterns of other American and European cities. For this effort, they enlisted the help of elite women, specifically in the areas of education, child rearing and public morality. While the women of the upper classes may have wielded more influence, working-class women, whose lives are vividly described in this book, actively participated in the process by resisting and reacting to official efforts at social control.
The only book that examines 19th-century Puerto Rican women’s history, this work places the experiences of urban women in San Juan within the larger framework of Caribbean and Latin American 19th-century life. Because it offers a solid foundation for discussing race relations in Puerto Rico, it will begin important conversations about broad questions of identity in the island’s history.

Félix V. Matos Rodríguez is assistant professor of history at Northeastern University. He is the author of several articles on Puerto Rican history and the co-editor of Puerto Rican Women’s History: New Perspectives.

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"This is a fine study, well informed by scholarship in the history of the Caribbean, and Puerto Rican women in particular."-- Feministas Unidas Feministas Unidas

"Felix Matos Rodriguez's Women and Urban Change in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1820- 1868 is one of the most important studies of nineteenth century Puerto Rican history in the last twenty years, and the only study to focus entirely on Puerto Rican women of this era. " - Latin American Research Review Latin American Research Review

"a masterful text which for all its wealth of sources in eminently readable. Students will find in this text an important alternative to the rural hegemony so characteristic of pre-1970s scholarship. In addition, historians of gender in colonial Caribbean societies will find valuable comparative material here." - Caribbean Studies Newsletter Caribbean Studies Newsletter

"Drawing on a wealth of documentary sources, such as population censuses, minutes from the town council meetings, notarial contracts, and a variety of cabildo and church records, Matos Rodriguez carefully constructs a detailed picture of the geographical spaces in which San Juan women (sanjuaneras) lived their lives." "Students of gender and racial formation will find in this book a solid empirical ground to begin posing new questions." New West Indian Guide

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