Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire

How did Spanish Colonization Affect the lives of Mexican Women?


William Henry Jackson took this photograph sometime between 1884-1900 in Mexico City, Mexico. There are about 15 women and a baby sitting in a long narrow room washing clothes. The room is open to the outside and there are linens hanging everywhere to dry. The women seem to vary between the ages 20-40 and they are wearing simple clothing. They are not from the upper class because their clothes are very basic and they are also doing tasks that servants would have done. It seems as if they are working under someone for a wage. They are all looking in the same direction and are distracted by an unseen source. During this time period Porfirio Diaz was the president of Mexico and he concentrated on expanding Mexico’s economy. However, he did not focus on the working conditions of the poorer working class, and this eventually caused an uprising that led to the Mexican Revolution(1). This picture seems to be depicting working class women during Diaz’s rein and possibly emphasizing the poverty Mexico faced during Diaz’s rein that was caused by the economic chaos left over from Spanish colonization. A question I would want to research is how did Mexico’s independence from Spain affect its economy and specifically the women in that economy. It’s also interesting to note that the women are washing clothing which was denoted as a female responsibility in Europe. Were European gender roles adopted in Mexico due to Spanish colonization?

1 Rowe L.S., “The Mexican Revolution: Its Causes and Consequences,” Political Science Quarterly 27, no. 2 (1912): 286.

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