What About Women?

Pictured: Mary Cole, Susan Gladwin, and unidentified Filipina.

Source: Harry Newton Cole Papers, Bentley Image Bank, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 

Archival collections at the UM reveal complex narratives of women in the colonial Philippines. Women are represented in the papers of imperialists such as Dean Worcester as passive and sexualized objects, yet they are also shown in powerful positions as teachers and leaders of the emergent Philippine nation. Philippine Women in UM Archives specifically addresses the issue of representation in the archive, attempting to find traces of women who defy stereotypes.  This analysis is included alongside a critical exploration of women in colonial photographs.  Inverting Power Dynamics re-examines the role Filipino women occupied in their relationships with U.S. soldiers. By challenging the assumption of American dominance, we reveal the ways Filipino women were able to maneuver within these power dynamics as a way to expand their own power. In American Women in the Philippines, we explore the complexity of the role of gender in the culture of US imperialism. We show how white American women took on so many different kinds of positions regarding the question of empire, and we document their gendered experiences in the colony. Lastly, Gender and the Imperial Gaze provides an exercise to develop a "critical lens" when engaging with the imagery in an imperial archive. Focusing on photographs of Philippine women, we provide guiding questions and context that can enhance our understanding of the merits and problems of using images in the study of colonial histories.

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