Book ID: CBB663273074

The silver women : How Black women's labor made the Panama Canal (2023)


Joan Flores-Villalobos (Author)

University of Pennsylvania Press

Publication Date: 2023
Edition Details: Book series: Politics and culture in modern America
Physical Details: 287
Language: English

The Panama Canal was realized as much through the exploitation of a racialized class of workers as it was by American ingenuity. What is less visible, and less understood, is the project's dependence on the domestic and care labor of Black migrant women, who were paid in silver rather than the gold that white workers received. The Silver Women shifts the focus of this monumental endeavor to the West Indian women who travelled to Panama, inviting readers to place women's intimate lives, choices, grief, and ambition at the center of the economic and geopolitical transformation created by the construction of the Panama Canal and U.S. imperial expansion. The Silver Women argues that Black West Indian women made the canal construction possible by providing the indispensable everyday labor of social reproduction. West Indian women built a provisioning economy that fed, housed, and cared for the segregated Black West Indian labor force, in effect subsidizing the construction effort and its racial calculus. But while also subject to racial discrimination and segregation, West Indian women mostly worked outside the umbrella of U.S. canal authorities. They did not hold contracts and had little access to official services and wages. From this position, they found ways to skirt, and at times subvert, the legal, moral, and economic parameters imperial authorities sought to impose on the racialized migrant workforce. West Indian women developed important strategies of claims-making, kinship, community building, and market adaptation that helped them navigate the contradictions and violence of U.S. empire. In the meantime, these strategies of social reproduction nurtured further West Indian migrations, linking Panama to places like Harlem and Santiago de Cuba. The book is thus a history of Black West Indian women's labor of social reproduction as integral to U.S. imperial infrastructure, the global Caribbean diaspora, and women's own survival. (Publisher)

Reviewed By

Review Jason M. Colby (Summer 2023) Review of "The silver women : How Black women's labor made the Panama Canal". Business History Review (pp. 444-447). unapi

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Book Maurer, Noel; Yu, Carlos; (2011)
The Big Ditch: How America Took, Built, Ran, and Ultimately Gave Away the Panama Canal (/isis/citation/CBB001421566/)

Article Carse, Ashley; (2012)
Nature as Infrastructure: Making and Managing the Panama Canal Watershed (/isis/citation/CBB001250761/)

Article Korczynski, Marek; (2003)
Music at work: Towards a historical overview (/isis/citation/CBB001181267/)

Book Ashley Carse; (2014)
Beyond the big ditch: politics, ecology, and infrastructure at the Panama Canal (/isis/citation/CBB384585453/)

Article Salvatore, Ricardo Donato; (2006)
Imperial Mechanics: South America's Hemispheric Integration in the Machine Age (/isis/citation/CBB001030915/)

Book Marixa Lasso; (2019)
Erased: The Untold Story of the Panama Canal (/isis/citation/CBB716002628/)

Book Trescott, Martha Moore; (1979)
Dynamos and virgins revisited: Women and technological change in history (/isis/citation/CBB001180230/)

Book Laura Gowing; (2022)
Ingenious trade : Women and work in seventeenth-century London (/isis/citation/CBB600434252/)

Chapter Downey, Greg; (2000)
Running somewhere between men and women: Gender and the telegraph messenger boy (/isis/citation/CBB001180035/)

Article Storrs L. Olson; Clyde S. Stephens; (2018)
Alwyn Hasso von Wedel (1873–1957): Bird and Plant Collector on the Caribbean Coast of Panama (/isis/citation/CBB630540742/)

Thesis Bhimull, Chandra D.; (2007)
Empire in the Air: Speed, Perception, and Airline Travel in the Atlantic World (/isis/citation/CBB001560723/)

Article Thorndahl, Jytte; (2006)
Creation of the modern housewife (/isis/citation/CBB001180409/)

Book Ashley Carse; (2014)
Beyond the Big Ditch: Politics, Ecology, and Infrastructure at the Panama Canal (/isis/citation/CBB368970305/)

Authors & Contributors
Carse, Ashley
Meiske, Martin
Marixa Lasso
Stephens, Clyde S.
Olson, Storrs L.
Yu, Carlos
Technology and Culture
Social Studies of Science
Phlogiston: Journal of the History of Science
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Journal of the History of Biology
Folk Music Journal
University of Pittsburgh Press
The MIT Press
Scarecrow Press
Princeton University Press
MIT Press
Harvard University Press
Panama Canal
Women and Work
Labor and laborers
Women and technology
Alwyn Hasso von Wedel
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
20th century, late
United States
West Indies
Great Britain
Pratt & Whitney Company

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment