Getting involved in the civil rights movement in Mississippi was not as simple as raising a hand. Neither was the participation itself. True, anyone could join, but the racist, violent environment that incited the movement did not welcome those who fought to change it. The hand that Fannie Lou Hamer raised one day in a church in the Delta region of Mississippi was 44 years old, and it had picked cotton under the eyes of white domination for too long (Mills 1993). Fannie Lou Hamer's hand, as it stretched above the heads of her church congregation, was full of anger and frustration with the state in which she and her family lived. It was also full of religious strength, personal experiences with racism, and concern for her family and community. On the other hand, Jane Schutt, president of the Mississippi state chapter of Church Women United during the mid-1960s, was called and asked to serve on the state's first advisory committee to the United States Civil Rights Commission. Although others she knew turned the offer down, Schutt, a white woman and mother of four, gathered strength from her religious beliefs and personal commitment and accepted the position to better race relations during a turbulent time. While many women who came to the movement shared common reasons for their recruitment, they were not a homogeneous group. In addition, the kinds of activities in which they participated cannot be lumped into one category. My goal in this article is to recognize the ways gender shaped activist recruitment and participation in the civil rights movement, specifically the ways in which gendered experiences varied by race.
Doug McAdam (1992; Wiltfang and McAdam 1991) notes that in the general study of social movements, relatively little attention has been paid to differences between activists in the same movement. Rather, the tendency has been to focus on distinguishing factors between activists and nonactivists. However, scholars have expanded this limiting view to encompass studies of the variation of activist experience within movements, especially in relation to the differentiation of men and women activists.
The gendered experience of recruitment and participation has been the focus of several studies, and scholars have begun to clarify the ways gender is "played out" in movements and alternatively shaped by them (for examples, see Beckwith 1996; Naples 1998; Neuhouser 1995; Staggenborg 1998; Taylor 1996; Taylor and Van Willigen 1996). Early works on the civil rights movement focused mainly on the roles of visible leaders, the men, and paid scant attention to the role of women. However, more recent scholarship such as the studies by Giddings (1985) and Crawford, Rouse, and Woods (1990) has brought to the forefront the work done by Black women in the movement. Charles Payne (1990, 1995), in his study of the Greenwood movement in the Delta region of Mississippi, found an "overparticipation" of Black women, meaning that the women were more politically active than the men. Payne examines the possible causes for this and in doing so points out the necessary organizing skills Black women provided to the movement.
McNair Barnett (1993) takes examination of Black women's roles a step further in her analysis of their "invisible" leadership in the movement. She argues that Black women filled "valuable leadership roles" in "their homes, churches, social clubs, organizations, and communities," but the triple constraints of race, class, and gender did not permit adequate recognition of their efforts (1993, 177). Robnett describes African American women in the civil rights movement as "bridge leaders" (1996, 1997).(1) She suggests that Black women were constrained by gender and therefore the primary avenue of leadership open
to them was one of a "grassroots tier of leadership that served as a critical bridge between the formal organization and adherents and potential constituents" (1996, 1667). Both McNair Barnett and Robnett have made significant contributions to understanding the role of African American women in the civil rights movement, particularly in their attention to grassroots-level work and the range of participation for which it calls. These works serve the important function of drawing attention not only to the large role Black women played but also to the different organizational and leadership skills they brought to the movement. My work extends this research by asking how women's recruitment and contributions varied by race.
Another trend in studies of the civil rights movement focuses on the gendered differentiation of activist experience in the Freedom Summer campaign of 1964. Evans (1979) and Rothschild (1982) focus on white female Freedom Summer volunteers' experiences with sexism and gender-biased work in the movement, and McAdam (1988) touches on this to some degree. McAdam (1992) takes an analysis of gender as a mediator of activist experience further through an examination of how gender influenced recruitment to Freedom Summer, and the experiences, political effects, and the perceived effects of the experience on volunteers' lives. These works help further understanding of the differentiation of experience by gender, but again, they are focused on the experiences of white activists, just as the previously noted works focused on African American women and men.
Generally, research on activists and the civil rights movement compares the experiences of men versus women, without regard to issues of race or class. And while one approach (Fendrich 1993) examines the variation of Black and white activist experience within the civil rights movement of Tallahassee, Florida, the focus of differentiation is on race, not on the ways race, class, and gender may interact together. Certainly, this literature has contributed to our understanding of subjective activist experiences and collective action and draws out important issues; that is, activist experience varies by race, class, and gender, among other characteristics. McAdam notes that "gender is always experienced within equally elaborated systems of race, class, and age. The unique intersections of these various systems, then, further differentiates [sic] the lived experience of gender" (1992, 1213). In other words, we cannot necessarily assume that men and women are recruited to social movements in the same manner, nor can we conclude that their experiences within movements are homogeneous. In fact, we must begin to recognize that people have various "structures of constraint,"(2) which shape not only educational and occupational experiences but also social movement experiences.
Previous research contributes to understandings of the different experiences of activism by race and sex but does little to study the differentiation of sex by race, class, or age;(3) attention has also focused on studying gendered experiences in a gender-integrated movement. This article is an attempt to study gender as it varies by race in a gender-integrated movement. Specifically, my intention is to focus on the ways gender interacted with race to shape women's recruitment to, and participation in, the civil rights movement of Mississippi. I expand on previous works that argue that gender shapes activist experience by highlighting race as an equally important variable that differentiates experiences among women.
This article is based on data collected on women involved with the Mississippi civil rights movement, especially during its period of strength in the early and mid-1960s. I began research with the intention of interviewing visible women leaders from the movement or women whose names are mentioned in movement literature as having fairly prominent roles, such as state committee members or the project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). On the basis of names gathered from archival research, I set up interviews with several women. I realized early in the project that I could not confine myself to the study of "visible" leaders if I wanted to understand the range of contributions women made to the movement. For …