Parker, Alison M.
Parker, Alison M.
(Alison Marie Parker)
CAREER: Writer, educator. State University of New York College at Brockport, NY, associate professor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ford Foundation Travel Grants for Women’s Studies Projects, Johns Hopkins University, 1990, 1991, 1993; dissertation research grant, the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, 1991; National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar, Stanford University, 2002.
Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform, and Pro-censorship Activism, 1873-1933, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1997.
(Editor, with Stephanie Cole) Women and the Unstable State in Nineteenth-Century America, introduction by Sarah Barringer Gordon, Texas A&M University Press (College Station, TX), 2000.
(Editor, with Stephanie Cole) Beyond Black & White: Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, Texas A&M University Press (College Station, TX), 2004.
Contributor of articles to professional journals, including Journal of Women’s History and Reviews in American History, and to books, including Movie Censorship and American Culture, edited by Francis Couvares, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996;Votes for Women: A Concise History of the Suffrage Movement, Oxford University Press, 2002; and The American Congress: Building of Democracy, edited by Julian Zelizer, Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Alison M. Parker is an American academic and historian whose area of study focuses on issues of gender and race. Her 1997 work, Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform, and Pro-censorship Activism, 1873-1933, examines the effect that women had on censorship. Parker pays particular attention to the role of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and its Department for the Suppression of Impure Literature, as well as the work of the American Library Association (ALA) in its pro-censorship activities. Both of these organs attempted to control culture at the “point of consumption” and the “point of production,” as Kate Wittenstein explained in a Michigan Historical Review article. Thus, in addition to mounting campaigns against certain forms of literature, art, ballet, and entertainments such as burlesque, the WCTU also tried to shape young minds with its publications, such as Young Crusader and Oak and Ivy Leaf. According to Wayne A. Wiegand, writing in Library Quarterly, these publications “carried fiction in which adolescent characters manifested what the union thought were appropriate social and moral behaviors.” The WCTU also campaigned vigorously to get censorship legislation passed, and their movement was supported by a large section of middle-class and upper-class Americans. The ALA, however, was against such legislation, feeling that laws would deprive them of their professional responsibility of guiding cultural norms through a proper selection of literature. Both the WCTU and the ALA managed to avoid criticism of suppression of free speech by restricting their activities to cultural rather than political arenas. By 1925 the WCTU had also taken on the new movie industry; its Department of Literature was transformed into the Department of Motion Pictures. Wittenstein found Parker’s book a “multilayered revisionist account.” Wiegand also had qualified praise for Parker’s study, noting, “Despite . . . admirable contributions, however, [Parker’s] perspectives on librarians are too narrow.” Wiegand went on to point out that by 1933 librarians were not of one mind regarding the role of censorship.
Working as editor with Stephanie Cole, Parker produced the 2000 title, Women and the Unstable Statein Nineteenth-Century America, a collection of essays which examine “American women’s relationship to electoral politics from 1800 through the end of Reconstruction,” as Rebecca Edwards described the book in Journal of Southern History. The six essays attempt to demonstrate, Edwards further commented, that “women who tried to exert political power had to surmount the twin obstacles of subordination in marriage and lack of voting rights. Surprisingly, many succeeded.” Edwards concluded, “These essays illuminate not only the history of such women, but the broader systems of law, partisanship, and kinship in which they labored.” Lee Chambers-Schiller, writing in the North Carolina Historical Review, also had praise for the collection, calling it a “volume to savor, an introduction to women’s political history for the uninitiated with challenging contributions for those steeped in the literature.”
Again working with Cole, Parker edited the 2004 volume Beyond Black & White: Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest. According to Linda W. Reese, writing in the American Historical Review, this collection of essays “probes the boundaries and contradictions of the traditional understanding of race in nineteenth and early twentieth-century America as a bifurcation of ‘black’ and ‘white.’” Fay A. Yarbrough, writing in the Journal of Southern History, had praise for both Parker and Cole, noting that they “have put together a selection of essays that forces a reconsideration of how historians conceptualize both the American South and the operation of race.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
American Historical Review, April, 2005, Linda W. Reese, review of Beyond Black & White: Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, p. 462.
Journal of Southern History, February, 2002, Rebecca Edwards, review of Women and the Unstable State in Nineteenth-Century America, p. 162; May, 2005, Fay A. Yarbrough, review of Beyond Black & White, p. 510.
Library Quarterly, October, 1998, Wayne A. Wiegand, review of Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform, and Pro-censorship Activism, 1873-1933, p. 511.
Michigan Historical Review, spring, 2000, Kate Wittenstein, review of Purifying America, p. 165.
North Carolina Historical Review, October, 2001, Lee Chambers-Schiller, review of Women and the Unstable State in Nineteenth-Century America, p. 502.
SUNY Brockport Web site, http://www.brockport.edu/ (January 30, 2007), “Faculty Page: Dr. Alison M. Parker.”*