Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Valerio-Jiménez, Omar S

Second Advisor

Schwalm, Leslie A

First Committee Member

Komisaruk, Catherine

Second Committee Member

Stromquist, Shelton

Third Committee Member

Fox, Claire

Fourth Committee Member

Hoenicke-Moore, Michaela


This dissertation reassesses the impact of U.S. annexation of Arizona and New Mexico in 1848 by recovering the imposition of and resistance to the new national border and identities among Spanish-Mexican, mestiza, and Euro-American women from 1846 to 1941. I analyze the impact of U.S. annexation of Arizona and New Mexico on gender roles, ethnic identity, and cultural practices by focusing on the roles of the domestic space, food culture, and material culture in dividing and bringing together women across these ethnocultural groups. By exploring the political intent and consequences of quotidian choices, this dissertation demonstrates the centrality of women in the daily and domestic negotiations over national and cultural borders during the territorial period (1850-1912) and the era of early statehood (1912-1941). Using English and Spanish-language sources, this dissertation argues that Euro-American and Spanish-Mexican women continuously used their homes, housekeeping, cultural customs, and foodways to define their new statuses in the region and negotiate the new cultural, physical, and national boundaries. Euro-Americans used their own and others’ cultural practices to maintain their whiteness and to construct Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and American Indians as non-white and to define gender and class in the region. Simultaneously, Spanish-Mexican women negotiated the new physical, social, and cultural boundaries by asserting their cultural citizenship even though they were denied full citizenship.

In the first three chapters, I study the U.S.-Mexico War and the territorial period (1846-1912) by analyzing the roles of material and food culture and the homespace in shaping each group’s constructions of whiteness, nationalism, and ethnic identity and in shaping the processes of cultural assimilation and resistance. I highlight how Euro-Americans used the newly established U.S.-Mexico border to “other” the people and practices they associated with Mexico or “savagery.” Additionally, I argue that Spanish-Mexican and Mexican American worked around gender and legal borders by engaging in trade, traveling across the international border, and inserting themselves in the political and legal activities of Euro-Americans to maintain their homespaces.

In Chapters 4 and 5, I address how women across ethnocultural groups used cookbooks and historical memory to create their place in community, state, and national identities after Arizona and New Mexico were incorporated in 1912. Using literary and cultural studies approaches, I address the narrative spaces, such as cookbooks and pioneer histories, in which women across ethnocultural groups claimed a stake in the public memory and community identities. I argue that Euro-American women appropriated some Spanish cultural practices and celebrated the pioneer past while denying full citizenship to people of color. Simultaneously, I argue, Spanish-Mexican and American Indian women used cookbooks and/or oral histories to challenge narratives of their inferiority and to claim their cultural citizenship.

This dissertation brings light to the persistent and continuous roles of women, the body, and the home in shaping daily politics in the region. By pushing at the edges of U.S.-Mexico borderlands history methodology to include gender studies methodology, this dissertation introduces the homespace and motherhood as gendered and raced contact zones that were sometimes used to enforce and at other times challenge U.S. territoriality. I argue that the domestic activities of women offer significant, new insight to the political narratives of settler-colonialism, gender roles, nationality, and race in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. This dissertation moves away from overtly political acts to the seemingly “mundane” activities of cooking, dressing, and housekeeping to broaden our understanding of the connections between political behavior and cultural practices. These gendered negotiations provide a critical history of the intimate ways U.S. colonial efforts in the American Southwest played out and shaped the current dynamics of borderlands communities.


Arizona, Borderlands, New Mexico, Territory, Women


386 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 357-386).


Copyright © 2016 Katherine Sarah Massoth

Available for download on Monday, August 31, 2020

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