Phillips, Danielle

Job Placement: Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Texas Woman’s University
Webpage: http://www.twu.edu/ws/phillips.asp
Committee: N. Hewitt; A. Ramos-Zayas; E. Brooks
Dissertation: Global Formations of Race in Close Quarters: Irish and African American Domestic Workers in New York, 1888-1940Global Formations of Race in Close Quarters: Irish and African American Domestic Workers in New York, 1888-1940

Bio

Danielle received a B.A. in Comparative Women’s Studies from Spelman College and completed her PhD in 2010. She accepted a tenure-track position in Women's Studies at Texas Woman's University.

Abstract

My dissertation investigates the experiences of southern African American women migrating to New York after emancipation and Irish women, who became heavily concentrated in domestic service positions there as a result of the migration that followed the devastating potato famines of the 1840s and 1850s. Although both groups of women were clearly marginalized because of their racial, gender, and class status, they moved to the center of debates about the meanings of citizenship, blackness, non-whiteness, whiteness, and the ideals of domesticity in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As southern Black, immigrant, and white women came into greater contact in the domestic sphere, the supposed “bedrock” of American civilization, it became a site of contention as groups negotiated modes of power and definitions of who was white and who was an “American.” Native-born white employers and Irish and southern African American domestic workers used personal interactions, letters to the editor, satirical images, and newspaper and journal articles as platforms to construct identities that would allow them to claim the material and ideological promises of the “American Dream.” Debates about the “domestic service problem” in New York City did not occur in isolation, of course. Harper’s Bazaar and other periodicals carried these discussions overseas, featuring transnational conversations between employers in the U.S. and London who exchanged tips about how to deal with the “belligerent” domestic workers who were “invading” their homes and providing “inadequate” service. This study also examines how Black intellectuals including W.E.B. Du Bois and Anna Julia Cooper inserted their own theoretical contributions into this global debate about domestic service and the particular interaction between Irish and southern African American female laborers in the North. My dissertation investigates the experiences of southern African American women migrating to New York after emancipation and Irish women, who became heavily concentrated in domestic service positions there as a result of the migration that followed the devastating potato famines of the 1840s and 1850s. Although both groups of women were clearly marginalized because of their racial, gender, and class status, they moved to the center of debates about the meanings of citizenship, blackness, non-whiteness, whiteness, and the ideals of domesticity in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As southern Black, immigrant, and white women came into greater contact in the domestic sphere, the supposed “bedrock” of American civilization, it became a site of contention as groups negotiated modes of power and definitions of who was white and who was an “American.” Native-born white employers and Irish and southern African American domestic workers used personal interactions, letters to the editor, satirical images, and newspaper and journal articles as platforms to construct identities that would allow them to claim the material and ideological promises of the “American Dream.” Debates about the “domestic service problem” in New York City did not occur in isolation, of course. Harper’s Bazaar and other periodicals carried these discussions overseas, featuring transnational conversations between employers in the U.S. and London who exchanged tips about how to deal with the “belligerent” domestic workers who were “invading” their homes and providing “inadequate” service. This study also examines how Black intellectuals including W.E.B. Du Bois and Anna Julia Cooper inserted their own theoretical contributions into this global debate about domestic service and the particular interaction between Irish and southern African American female laborers in the North.