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Sexuality, Politics, and Social Control in Virginia, 1920-1945

By Pippa Holloway

272 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5764-9
    Published: October 2006
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7749-4
    Published: September 2007

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Awards & distinctions

2006 Willie Lee Rose Prize, Southern Association for Women Historians

In the first half of the twentieth century, white elites who dominated Virginia politics sought to increase state control over African Americans and lower-class whites, whom they saw as oversexed and lacking sexual self-restraint. In order to reaffirm the existing political and social order, white politicians legalized eugenic sterilization, increased state efforts to control venereal disease and prostitution, cracked down on interracial marriage, and enacted statewide movie censorship. Providing a detailed picture of the interaction of sexuality, politics, and public policy, Pippa Holloway explores how these measures were passed and enforced.

The white elites who sought to expand government's role in regulating sexual behavior had, like most southerners, a tradition of favoring small government, so to justify these new policies, they couched their argument in economic terms: a modern, progressive government could provide optimum conditions for business growth by maintaining a stable social order and a healthy, docile workforce. Holloway's analysis demonstrates that the cultural context that characterized certain populations as sexually dangerous worked in tandem with the political context that denied them the right to vote. This perspective on sexual regulation and the state in Virginia offers further insight into why white elite rule mattered in the development of southern governments.

About the Author

Pippa Holloway is associate professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University.
For more information about Pippa Holloway, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"Persuasively argued and well-researched. . . . The significance of Holloway's study lies in reassessing Southern culture and politics . . . and ultimately making abundantly clear how vital the study of sexuality is to broader narratives in American history."--Journal of Social History

"A good and workman-like book. . . . [Provides] a solid foundation for future studies of sex, class, race, and politics in Virginia and the rest of the modern South."--H-Net Reviews

"Fascinating. . . . An important work that challenges some previous interpretations . . . while offering further insights."--Virginia Libraries

"Deeply researched. . . . Recommended."--CHOICE

"Zealously illuminates the many ways in which white elite men used racial myths and gendered biases to reinforce class hierarchies in Virginia."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"[A] well-researched look at certain aspects of the attempted regulation of sexual life in Virginia from 1922 through World War II. . . . Draws out matters of concern that do not stop at the state's borders . . . contribute[s] to our understanding of the decades treated."-- American Historical Review