And they all fell silent : gender and violence in Butte, Montana, 1910-1950

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The history of violence in the American West has captured the attention of scholars as well as the popular imagination for decades. Novels, films, scholarly articles, and most recently video games have dedicated hundreds of pages and countless hours of media production to gold camp desperados, vigilantes, bandits, and early twentieth century labor agitators, while the history of more intimate violence remains quieted. That is the violence exacted against female bodies. This project tells one story from four separate yet intricately linked vantage points: the rates and patterns of gendered violence, the cultural interpretations of violence, the legal encoding and policing of violence, and women's resistance to that violence. Additionally, this project looks at rape and wife assault simultaneously, as these are both crimes that overwhelmingly affect women. Examining these crimes in tandem throughout the twentieth century, before the advent of spousal rape or domestic violence law, and within the larger context of all violent crimes, demonstrates the ways in which violence not only worked to maintain male power, but also to define relationships between related and unrelated men and women. The redefinition of these relationships and identities, however, did not only occur through physical force, but also through institutional and epistemic violence practices. Specifically, the statistical analysis expands a robust conversation about the history of homicide in its discussion of three kinds of violent crime-rape, homicide, and assault. In doing so, it presents a more complete depiction of the history of force. The cultural analysis investigates the development of violence narratives, which have significant consequences for how the law defines crimes, how offenders will be tried and sentenced, and how preventative strategies are developed. The legal analysis examines the ways in which the law constructed bodies of potential perpetrators and/or victims and either provided for or inhibited equal access to protection. It also investigates the fluid ways in which its practitioners interpreted and executed the law. Lastly, this project explores the ways in which woman, far from passive victims, opposed the abuse of their bodies.




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