Logo en Global Donate now


Document Details


Print and save


Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor




Evelyn Nakano Glen


This is an important and timely book. Evelyn Nakano Glenn has employed an innovative approach to the complex questions she raises by providing a historical overview of trends unfolding at the national level, and then exploring the operation of these trends at more local levels through case studies of the American South, the Southwest, and Hawaii. Unequal Freedom is a very smart and thoughtful synthetic analysis on the vexed questions of race, class, gender, citizenship, and labor in a critical period of U.S. history.
--David G. Gutiérrez, University of California, San Diego (20030101)

Glenn has put her finger on the two key institutional sites that have been central to the structuring of both racial and gender inequalities. This makes an important contribution to our knowledge of the working of gender and race in American society.
--Sonya O. Rose, University of Michigan (20041101)

Although contemporary scholars often seek the integration of race, class and gender into a single coherent analysis of inequality, Glenn is rare indeed in offering just such a balanced, comprehensive and practical understanding of all three interlocking forms of oppression in American history and politics. Vivid with telling detail and yet sweeping in scope, Unequal Freedom shows how the interplay of gender, race and class shaped actual citizenship and labor markets in the United States, leaving a legacy of inequality that we are far from overcoming today. The similarities and differences among the South, Southwest and Hawaii provide a convincing picture of how local conditions produce specific forms of class, gender and race relations. The attention Glenn gives not only to such structures but to the varied patterns of resistance by different groups in particular settings also greatly enriches our historical understanding of what is now sometimes mistakenly seen as a new politics of identity.
--Myra Marx Ferree, University of Wisconsin

Unequal Freedom delivers the goods on scholars' longstanding promises to study race, class, and gender as they were actually experienced in the U.S. past, in all of their dynamic interplay and regional particularity. It is a work of breathtaking synthesis and deep originality. The emphasis on both labor markets and on substantive rights of citizenship allows Evelyn Nakano Glenn to set local stories in which quite different demographics of race are at play in national and global contexts. This book changes how we teach about the centrality and variety of inequality in U.S. history. Indeed, it changes how we think about those critical questions.
--David Roediger, University of Illinois

A hugely capacious and penetratingly insightful work, Unequal Freedom shows how race and gender are inseparable in the constitutions and consequences of citizenship and labor. And with equal attention to national and local spaces, historical and contemporary times, and repressive and resistant forces, this book exemplifies the kind of scholarship that can transform our thinking and our lives.
--Gary Y. Okihiro, Columbia University

In this astonishingly versatile work of synthesis and analysis, Evelyn Nakano Glenn situates local knowledges on a national stage to explain how citizenship was differently achieved for different Americans. Unequal Freedom uncovers complex intersecting patterns of racial and gender stratification and labor hierarchies and reveals how they are reinforced by the men and women who live them. This is a powerful and provocative book: a sparkling achievement.
--Alice Kessler-Harris, Columbia University

Although the US has long professed its commitment to universal equality, it remains a society in which gender and race limit opportunities. By exploring the operation of citizenship and labor, Glenn...seeks to explain the persistence of inequality in US society. She provides a comparative analysis of the interaction of racial and gender relations in three settings: the South, the Southwest, and Hawaii. Each of these regions used race and gender hierarchies to structure labor markets and define citizenship to exclude segments of the labor force from the benefits of educational opportunities and political rights...This important, multifaceted analysis interweaves gender, race, and class in an innovative approach that is sensitive to various facets of citizenship as well as to formal and informal methods of exclusion. Glenn moves easily between national structures and local dynamics, drawing attention to the "multiple levels at which efforts for change are needed" if the US is to live up to its promise of universal equality. Highly recommended.
--K. Fones-Wolf (Choice )

Pointing to the "worker citizen" as central to what it means to be "American", Glenn makes a major contribution to the study of racial and gender oppression by examining the linkages between labor and citizenship in American society…While this is a work of American history, the analysis has international appeal, as readers will want to consider the connections between labor and citizenship in their national contexts…Glenn challenges her audience to think about racism and sexism systematically, and not as individual beliefs and attitudes…With the rise of global labour markets, analyses of the connections between labor and citizenship commenced by this excellent work is likely to remain important task in public policy debates.
--Sandra Tam (Canadian Woman Studies )

Although many scholars have called for stronger theoretical ties between race and gender, few have substantively engaged in an analysis that contributes to this task. Evelyn Nakano Glenn succeeds in doing this analysis...Glenn's work meets the difficult challenge of analyzing discourses that are often hidden from dominant modes of thinking and understanding. This contribution makes her work compelling and important to our discipline.
--Erin McNeal Reser (Rhetoric and Public Affairs )
Product Description
The inequalities that persist in America have deep historical roots. Evelyn Nakano Glenn untangles this complex history in a unique comparative regional study from the end of Reconstruction to the eve of World War II. During this era the country experienced enormous social and economic changes with the abolition of slavery, rapid territorial expansion, and massive immigration, and struggled over the meaning of free labor and the essence of citizenship as people who previously had been excluded sought the promise of economic freedom and full political rights.

After a lucid overview of the concepts of the free worker and the independent citizen at the national level, Glenn vividly details how race and gender issues framed the struggle over labor and citizenship rights at the local level between blacks and whites in the South, Mexicans and Anglos in the Southwest, and Asians and haoles (the white planter class) in Hawaii. She illuminates the complex interplay of local and national forces in American society and provides a dynamic view of how labor and citizenship were defined, enforced, and contested in a formative era for white-nonwhite relations in America.

Number of pages


Place published



Harvard University Press


Economic sectors


Content types

Policy analysis

Target groups


Geographical focuses

United States

Spheres of activity

Gender and sexuality studies, History, Law, Management of human resources, and Sociology