Property owners, workers, and public women: Stories and geographies of the late nineteenth century Manileña, 1860-1896


This thesis attempts to problematize and reveal the role women played in the development of late nineteenth century Manila’s social and economic landscape, while also linking their stories to the larger processes and events that influenced their daily lives. By combining methods from social history research with concepts and techniques from human geography, historical geography, and historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS), this study produces a collective portrait of the Manileña; one that is enhanced through a geographic analysis of their occupations and activities set within Manila’s social and physical spaces. The main body of this dissertation is composed of seven chapters categorized into themes that tackle the Manileña’s experiences and the spaces she utilized, negotiated, and contested with respect to State power, her livelihoods, and her place in society. The first three chapters underscore the contrasting experiences of privileged and working-class women in relation to the Law. While their knowledge of the Law allowed privileged women to conduct personal businesses, leave wills, and seek legal redress from abusive spouses, the colonial government enacted policies with respect to particular females that they considered threats to elite households, economic productivity, and public health. The second theme of the thesis demonstrates the significant presence of propertied and entrepreneurial women in Manila Province’s urban real estate and agricultural land market, as well as in selected businesses such as money lending, water and land-based transport, panguingue operations, and small-scale cigar and cigarette manufacturing in the city’s districts. Unlike their more privileged counterparts who held a significant ownership of Manila’s built environment, disadvantaged local and migrant women marked their presence in the city through their work in well-to-do residences, markets, cigar factories, waterways, streets, and brothels. Despite her significant presence in the city’s socioeconomic life, information from newspapers and criminal cases discussed in the last two chapters also reveal how Manila’s women suffered under a pervasive patriarchy. This includes the proliferation of ideas, illustrations, and advertisements that objectified women, determined their proper roles, and relegated them to the domestic sphere. Moreover, similar to other urbanized settlements, Manila was a site where women were commonly victims of violent and sexual crimes

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