Gendered Crossings: Women and Migration in the Spanish Empire (New Mexico, 2016)
winner of the 2016 Best Book Prize from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women
Review of Gendered Crossings in the Denver Post 3/20/2016
Gendered Crossings: Women and Migration in the Spanish Empire
By Allyson M. Poska (University of New Mexico)
From the academic title, you might think this is a book for scholars. Not so. “Gendered Crossings” is an absorbing story about women who were recruited to colonize Patagonia in the 1770s.
Spain wanted young families and fecund women who would populate the new world. The volunteers — nearly 2,000 in all — were shipped to Patagonia, where they found inadequate water and soil so bad that they couldn’t grow crops. Most of them left Patagonia for land near Buenos Aires. Life was hard even there as promised supplies lagged, and the settlers had to contend with Indians and disease.
Virtually all of them stayed, however, and became part of colonial society. While most remained peasants, a few became wealthy enough to purchase slaves.
This heavily researched book gives details about the women who made the crossing, about the roles they played and their family and sex lives. Although promiscuity was hardly unknown among the Spanish, most young girls were married off as young as 13 for their protection from sexual predators. Their husbands generally were 10 years older.
Author Allyson M. Poska’s figures about the deaths of children, wives and husbands tell better than any narrative of how heartbreaking life in the new world could be
Ashgate Research Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. Coedited with Katherine McIver and Jane Couchman (Farnham, UK: Ashgate Press, 2013)
(Oxford 2005; winner of the 2006 Roland H. Bainton prize for best book in early modern history or theology)
Cengage 2006 (Currently Out of Print — contact the authors for more information)