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Kansas History - Forthcoming Issue

Volume 37
Spring 2014

David M. Katzman, “The Children of Abraham and Hannah: Grocer, Doctor, Entrepreneur: The Summerfields of Lawrence, Kansas.”

Merchants, bakers, grocers, “railroad men,” mining operators, doctors, lawyers, and politicians, the Summerfields were nineteenth-century Kansas’ most well-known Jewish family. As Jews, as German-speaking immigrants, as entrepreneurs and strivers, and as engaged citizens, they transcended the boundaries of religion, ethnicity, gender, and place. Through kinship ties and education they took advantage of the opportunities Kansas, on the edge of settlement, offered them to go beyond the niche economic roles that Midwestern Jews tended to play. By the first decade of the twentieth century, their ambition, success, and Jewish identities led them to larger urban centers. As sojourners, however, their stories have been overlooked in local lore and town and state histories.

Lyn Ellen Bennett, “Child Custody, Custodial Arrangements and Financial Support in Late Nineteenth Century Kansas.”

This study of divorce cases in four Kansas counties examines the impact of changing gender and familial ideologies and their impact upon custody decisions during the late nineteenth century. In particular, it focuses upon court-ordered custodial control of children and on financial awards associated with custody, such as child support, maintenance and alimony. Although Kansas patterns are similar to national averages, the nuanced county-level analysis offered here by Lyn Ellen Bennett, associate professor of history at Utah Valley University, reveals several differences. Like state and national cases, county data demonstrates that women, rather than men, most often requested and received custody of their children and were more likely to request and receive financial support to care for their children. At the country level, plaintiff requests and court actions also demonstrate a diversity among the counties not disclosed by state and national data, especially in regards to court-ordered financial assistance and visitation rights. By the end of the nineteenth century, county court practices are quite reflective of what would become standard or common twentieth century practices.

Kristi Lowenthal, “The Equal Rights Amendment and the Persistence of Kansas Conservatism.”

The zealously moral freestaters who settled Kansas established a set of values that shaped the political and cultural backdrop of Kansas well into the twentieth century. Progressive-era Kansans continued the reforms of the state’s founders by passing a host of social legislation bills, including extending to women the right to vote nearly a decade before the federal amendment. In the 1970s, large numbers of Kansas women mobilized against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution, seemingly reversing a century of support for state legislation benefitting women. The struggle over the ERA reveals Kansans historically supported women’s rights only if they shored up traditional families, moralism, and virtue.  Opponents of the ERA, unwilling to risk their way of life on the nebulous idea of gender equality, chose to stand against it, solidifying the opinion of a vocal minority who still prioritize moral traditionalism as a bedrock value of Kansas.

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