Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Karin Wulf

Committee Member

Susan Kern

Committee Member

Nicholas S. Popper

Committee Member

Zara Anishanslin


Material Bodies examines Indigenous, Black, and white women’s body care in the long eighteenth-century South. By focusing on the objects, practices of using and maintaining objects, and spaces where body care took place this research uncovers the intimate, individual experiences of existing in a body that textual sources rarely discuss. Cloth, beds, washing, infant care objects and breast remedies, and spaces of body care are the focus of the five chapters. These objects, practices, and spaces were not the only ones that shaped women’s physical experiences however they were some of the most important. Culture, enslavement, class, and race played a role in the objects, practices, and spaces women turned to and could access. Analyzing women in this broad region allows this work to make a methodological argument for the utility of material culture for studies of the body. While primarily making a methodological argument this work also engages with scholarship on race and gender in the early modern period. As Native Americans, European colonists, and Africans came into contact in the Atlantic world from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, bodies served as the first and an ongoing mediator of cross-cultural interactions. Material bodies were a primary medium through which people viewed and formed opinions of each other. By understanding nuances of women’s lives and actions through the objects they used during body care, we see how women supported, challenged, and shaped ideas about race and gender.




© The Author

Available for download on Monday, May 19, 2031