Of Domestic and Legal Offices: Working Women’s Quests for Veterans’ Pensions in Postwar Santiago de Cuba
By creating legal documents and petitioning the new nation’s courts, these women were not just asking for the money owed them by the government: they were identifying themselves as active participants in Cuba’s nascent political culture. Given the way that Cuban policymakers and newspapers were portraying working-class women of color at this time—as burdens on the nation’s finances and vulnerable to descent into lives of vice and immorality—these petitions for compensation and for legal protection were potent counterpoints to stereotypes about the laziness or decadence of African-descended people. These women asserted their sovereignty and centrality to a national imaginary still in formation at the turn of the century. Even as what an independent Cuba might look like was still not solidified, single, financially vulnerable women who worked as domestics were contributing to its shape.
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