#VastEarlyAmerica / Women's history

I Still Love This Research (1997)

The basic argument was pretty simple, I thought, though it took me years of research to sort out. There are only a few tax records for early Philadelphia, and a major interpretation about increasing wealth inequality in the 18th century rested on the analysis of those records. It was quantitative analysis. I was studying women, and was struck by how regularly they were taxed differently than men on the same tax;e property. So I started to pay closer attention. Sure enough, the tax assessors were treating women’s wealth differently.

I sent my essay to a Very Prominent Journal, but neither the editor nor his main referee (the scholar who had done the most work interpreting wealth inequality as a factor in the coming of the American Revolution, an otherwise nice fellow) was persuaded that we could really describe taxation as a culturally bounded and shaped process. Spent two years revising and attempting to persuade them, but ultimately sent the piece elsewhere –should have done it sooner! I still use this research and am still fascinated by the work of Isaac Bristol and his fellow laborers in the 18th century information economy.

Penn State University Press (love university presses! Buy their books! These non-profits are a backbone of humanistic scholarship!) has made a huge trove (see what I did there) of the Pennsylvania Magazine freely available. I’ve linked to my article here.

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