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Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  59 reviews

Why does white supremacist politics in America remain so powerful? Elizabeth Gillespie McRae argues that the answer lies with white women.

Examining racial segregation from 1920s to the 1970s, Mothers of Massive Resistance examines the grassroots workers who upheld the system of racial segregation and Jim Crow. For decades in rural communities, in university towns, and in N

Hardcover, 1st, 352 pages
Published February 1st 2018 by Oxford University Press
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Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a really important perspective that is a nice counterweight to books like "The Good and the Mad" and "She stands at the Door" that talk about angry woman as the face of progress. Angry women (especially mothers) were also the face of white supremacy. women are complicated. This book covers the women that upheld the white patriarchy in the south for many years.

There are some problems with it though. It's a powerful group of stories, but it rarely shifts outward for context or even more d
Redneck Haiku Review


In early morning mist
Mama searches Circle K for
Moon Pies and Red Man
Gayle Francis
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
When we speak of women being erased from history, it's usually a long list of women's accomplishments that have been ignored or stolen by men (fuck you, Watson and Crick). But women's history is as complicated and messy as any other history, and we cannot ignore the ways in which women have brought harm to others.

McRae tells the story of women in favor of white supremacy from the late 1800s into the 1970s. She focuses on ways women organized to push a whites-only agenda, how they altered textbo
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chances are, when you think about prejudice and hate, you picture men--hooded klansmen or angry lynch mobs. But women were also involved in the politics of segregation and racism. This book is an exhaustive study of how women in America's South and North interfered to keep segregation the rule of the day...especially in schools. It offers insight into how attitudes of hatred continue to fester to this day. ...more
Tonstant Weader
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mothers of Massive Resistance is an academic examination of the role of activist women have played in fighting for segregation both in law (de jure) and in practice (de facto.) Elizabeth Gillespie McRae examines not only how segregationist laws and Jim Crow relied on women’s participation in enforcement, but how women organized and led the massive resistance to desegregation and the maintenance of white supremacy.

Because so much of Jim Crow fell into the milieu of women, women were integral to c
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is a difficult thing to take a very close look at yourself and at people like you and accept that those people have done terrible things and you have benefited from those things while others have suffered. There's a tendency to say "But I'M not like that," or "But WOMEN aren't like that" and, well, actually often they are and even if you're (I'm) not, you (I) still need to acknowledge that people of color might have damn good reason to be suspicious of your (my) motives. I really appreciated ...more
Nov 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Simona by: Sarah
McRae offers this dense and detailed academic scholarship on the historical role of white women in upholding white supremacy over the last century as a lesson for those of us dedicated to dismantling systems of oppression. I read (err, skimmed) this work as a white woman who knows that it is my responsibility in dismantling white supremacy to get my own people. By examining women's participation as agents and propagators of white supremacy in all sociopolitical spheres (private and public), McRa ...more
Craig Werner
First-class monograph delving into the deep history of women's involvement with (centrality to) the defense of white supremacy over the middle decades of the 20th century. McRae makes a convincing case that it's a mistake to default to images of redneck racists when imagining the dynamics of white supremacist culture and politics. I was particularly interested in her discussion of how Southern women in the post-Brown vs. Board of Education years developed a race-free discourse of property rights ...more
Carol Baldwin

Dr. Elizabeth Gillespie McRae's work is a comprehensive, well-researched treatise on the role white women played in the politics of Southern segregation from the 1920's-1970's. McRae focuses on four women who influenced multitudes of others through their writing and political activism:

North Carolina journalist, Nell Battle Lewis
Mississippi newspaper editor Mary Dawson Caine
South Carolina political activist Cornelia Dabney Tucker
Mississippi columnist Florence Sillers Ogden.

Since I am unable to s
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cbr-10
This may be the most important book I have read this year. It is informative and shocking the way white women have long played victim for the sake of segregation and redlining.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: socialjustice
Very interesting subject matter! Writing a bit dense at times.
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
That was a read and a half.

It felt like a text book. I'd probably give it more of 3 stars, but for the amount of work and being readable, I'll give it 4.

I was expecting something a bit more digestible. It can be very dense, especially as the points it's getting across are simple (white women omen upholding white supremacy patriarchy because it's how they define themselves, how the US was fighting the Nazis, despite both taking a page out of the eugenics book, using 'freedom' or 'busing' as an ex
Rebecca Wilson
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This excellent book is academic research and, especially in its early chapters, can be slow going. But it's well worth persevering to learn the detailed history of how white women in the U.S. have upheld white supremacy over the last century, especially by asserting control over public education and by adopting the rhetoric of the New Right to make their segregationist views ostensibly race-neutral and therefore more palatable to white moderates. I was particularly grateful to understand the con ...more
Whitney Archer
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
The best book I’ve read this year. Highly recommend.
Stephanie Solis
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Extremely informative, but unbearably dry. I got about halfway through it before I ran out of renewals from the library.
Rambling Reader
Now I understand how Trump garnered more than half of white American women's vote. ...more
Melissa Michelson
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book really informs current debates about why so many White women support Trump’s GOP. It’s not a new problem, peeps. They have been racists for over a century.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads
The topic is extremely important, but it needed better editing to tell a compelling story with a clear through-line to today.
Audacia Ray
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Important and compelling history of white supremacy in the twentieth century. In the intro, the author points out that there are many histories of white women in civil rights movement work during this same period, but white women’s significant contributions to perpetuating white supremacy are obscured. This book does that work, naming and documenting white women’s work to maintain segregation in neighborhoods and schools, tracing the political contribution of four different women. The focus on c ...more
Laurel Starkey
This is an interesting book. It is ostensibly about women’s role in upholding segregationist policies. It does an admirable job in that, presenting detailed and well documented case studies. What it does best, perhaps unintentionally, is open up the possibility that our current deep seated schisms, our two Americas, are a result of scholars and cultural analysts not recognizing the impact of continued national ambivalence over racial integration.

Women have always influenced American politics an
Jackson Matthews
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very well researched and well written, but horrifying, book. The troubles with people being unkind to one another are much ingrained, and this shows how much harder it will be to route out. We need to know the truth, and that is a good reason to read this.
Peggy Lavinder
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A timely and excellent book that illuminates the often underestimated force of mothers in influencing government policy. Very well researched.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So much history I did not know--helped me understand our current political situation and the role of white women in maintaining segregation. A must read for educators, especially white women.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I actually finished this months ago. Brilliant.

Recommended for those who think that masses of White women supporting misogynists and bigots at the ballot box is unique to 45.
Karen Schnakenberg
Oct 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I rated this a 3 because I think the topic -the role of white (primarily southern but not entirely) women - is critically important to understanding today's politics, so I'd rate it a 5 for significance but a 1 for readability because I found it to be a real slog that I had to force myself to keep returning to. It reads much too much like a dissertation, and though it covers very important ground and provides often striking evidence, the denseness of the prose made it difficult for me to remembe ...more
Janet Frick
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Excellent book to understand the deep, long-running, and pervasive role that white women have played in advancing and perpetuating white supremacy. A deeply researched book that grew out of dissertation research that the author did for a PhD in history at the University of Georgia. I was particularly taken in (with outrage) at the story of Millie Rutherford, the director of the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens GA and a long-running champion of women's education, who single-handedly authored dozens ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: feminism-reads
Because this is a dense, and highly academic read, I am only giving it three stars. I wish the book was written in a style that would make it easier for the general public to read so it could have a greater impact. I feel Ms. McRae wrote for her academic peers. Give us more story, please.

The book examined the 'gardening' white women did to maintain white supremacy during the 20th century up until 1970. Because it was so good at helping the reader see through the euphemisms white women used to re
This book examines the role that four influential women had in fighting to uphold Jim Crow, school segregation and the politics of white supremacy. Whether it was in the schools through the manipulation of textbooks, spreading erroneous and dangerous propaganda about the perils of race mixing or starting grassroots movements that affected the national and international scope of politics and policies, these women, in some fashion or other, had a hand on the pulse of race relations from the 1920s ...more
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, race-racism, history
Elizabeth Gillespie McRae's book takes a few familiar moments in 20th century American history - the maintenance of Jim Crow in the 1920s, Southern "massive resistance" to the 1954 Brown decision, opposition to busing in Boston in the 1970s, and identifies them as part of a long string of female-led, white supremacist-driven opposition to meaningful integration.

It's a book that I struggled to get through - much of it feels meandering, moving from one incident to another without meaningful conne
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This seemed like a highly topical book to read, especially in light of recent elections and conversations and media about the role of women in politics, elections, organizing, etc. Whereas much of the talk in 2018 has been about women in general and as specific groups organizing for the left/liberal/etc. this book looks at the role of women in upholding white supremacy.

The concept was fascinating to see the roles these women occupied and how they used them to uphold Jim Crow. From deciding the r
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