Book Talk: "Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity and Race on Montana's World War II Home Front"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
12:30 - 2:00pm
UCLA Public Affairs | Luskin Faculty Lounge 5391

Presented by: Matthew Basso, University of Utah, Gender Studies and History

with Discussant: Sarah Haley, UCLA Gender Studies



About the Book:

“I realize that I am a soldier of production whose duties are as important in this war as those of the man behind the gun.” So began the pledge that many home front men took at the outset of World War II when they went to work in the factories, fields, and mines while their compatriots fought in the battlefields of Europe and on the bloody beaches of the Pacific. The male experience of working and living in wartime America is rarely examined, but the story of men like these provides a crucial counter-narrative to the national story of Rosie the Riveter and GI Joe that dominates scholarly and popular discussions of World War II. 


In Meet Joe Copper, Matthew L. Basso describes the formation of a powerful, white, working-class masculine ideology in the decades prior to the war, and shows how it thrived—on the job, in the community, and through union politics. Basso recalls for us the practices and beliefs of the first- and second-generation immigrant copper workers of Montana while advancing the historical conversation on gender, class, and the formation of a white racial ethnic identity. Meet Joe Copper provides a context for our ideas of postwar masculinity, working class identity, and whiteness and finally returns the men of the home front to our reckoning of the Greatest Generation and the New Deal era.



About the Speakers:


Matthew Basso

Matt Basso is an Associate Professor of History and Gender Studies at the University of Utah.  Besides Meet Joe Copper, his book-length publications are Men at Work: Rediscovering Depression-Era Stories from the Federal Writers’ Project (2012); a K-12 textbook entitled We Shall Remain: A Native History of Utah and America (2009); and Across the Great Divide: Cultures of Manhood in the American West (2001).  We Shall Remain is part of a larger initiative, the Utah Indian Curriculum Project (UICP), which also features the Utah American Indian Digital Archive, a 50,000 page digital archive.  (UICP is available at  UICP won the Western History Association’s Autry Public History Prize, the American Association of State and Local History’s Award of Merit, and National Council on Public History’s Project of the Year – Honorable Mention.  Between 2006 and 2012 he directed the University of Utah’s American West Center where he initiated and oversaw UICP, six oral history projects, and a number of federal, state, and tribal research projects, film festivals, and conferences.  He is currently working on a book on Labor and Settler Masculinity in the Pacific World and beginning a new project on the historical experience of old age in America.

Sarah Haley

Sarah received her PhD in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University in 2010 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University's Center for African American Studies from 2010-2011. Over the past several years she has also worked in the labor movement, organizing in the academic and hospitality sectors. Sarah began her position as Assistant Professor of Gender Studies and Ralph J. Bunche Center Faculty Associate in Fall 2011. Sarah is currently writing a book entitled Engendering Captivity: Black Women and Punishment in Georgia After the Civil War, which examines the lives of imprisoned women in the U.S. South in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This study examines regimes of gendered racial terror, the construction and development of racialized gender categories, and individual and collective resistance practices. This manuscript expands the research and analysis of her dissertation, which was awarded the 2010 Lerner-Scott Dissertation Prize in U.S. Women's History from the Organization of American Historians. Sarah's research interests include black feminist theory, African American and Women's history, labor and working-class studies, and critical carceral studies. This year, she will teach courses on black women's history and the United States carceral system.




This event is presented by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) and cosponsored by UCLA History Department and Gender Studies