Violent environment: Women and Frontier Coffey County, Kansas: 1855-1880

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This essay discusses the brutal murder of Mary Wiley and her young son, William in Coffey County, Kansas during the mid-nineteenth century. It addresses the question of how concepts of gender and feminist theories can be more fully integrated into historical analysis. We have adopted the recent approach of transdisciplinarity to serve as a stronger bridge between the more conventional gender & history approach of the past 25 years and the literary and feminist theory foundations from which historians have drawn theoretical inspiration. Within our broader discussion of the historical context of gender and power in Coffey County, Kansas during the mid-1800s, we focus on two main themes: (1) conceptualizing patriarchy and violence, women as victims and perpetrators, and (2) an analysis of the body as the locus of violent discourse. By reading the various narratives associated with this violent event through the theoretical lenses reinvigorated from border disciplines, we gain a deeper understanding of gender and violence on the Kansas frontier as manifested in this case study.




Bunkowski, L., & Hedstrom, A. (2014). Violent environment: Women and Frontier Coffey County, Kansas: 1855-1880. In Illuminating How Identities, Stereotypes and Inequalities Matter through Gender Studies (pp. 55–69). Springer Netherlands.

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