ERIC Number: EJ847806
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 0
What's in a Name? The 1940s-1950s "Squaw Dress"
Parezo, Nancy J.; Jones, Angelina R.
American Indian Quarterly, v33 n3 p373-404 Sum 2009
Many commercial images and names linked to Native Americans are created for and perpetuated by popular culture and stem from past linguistic usage. In this article the authors present a case study of the questionable naming and the quiet, almost unnoticed, righting of a name for a Native derived garment in the American clothing industry, the extremely popular Squaw Dress. The Squaw Dress, a categorization label for several types of one- and two-piece dresses, was a regional style in the American Southwest in the late 1940s and became a national dress trend in the 1950s. The general public in the 1940s and 1950s used the word "squaw" in a number of ways, but generally tended to ignore its negative connotations when it was associated with an aestheticized commodity. Regional associations (the Greater Southwest), cultural identity (American Indian, Mexican, and European American), and post-World War II gender roles were linguistically and visually encoded into the resort and leisure-wear style. In this article the authors document the Squaw Dress's multicultural origins in Navajo, Western Apache, Tohono O'odham, and Mexican attire and how selective borrowing created a unique, easily recognized style with a questionable name. Before describing and assessing the Squaw Dress as a labeled commodity whose name needed righting, the authors provide a history of the multiple semantic meanings and uses of the word "squaw" in distinctive linguistic and cultural communities and changes through time. The authors demonstrate how the word came to hold different meanings for Algonquian speakers, Natives speaking other languages, and English speakers, ending with the meaning of "squaw" in post-World War II America. The authors end by noting contemporary efforts to eliminate the word's use as both an adjective and a noun in English and the unanticipated effect this had on the Squaw Dress's name when the dress style was revitalized in the 1990s. (Contains 2 figures and 67 notes.)
Descriptors: American Indians, Popular Culture, Clothing, Semantics, American Indian Languages, English, Language Usage, Gender Bias, Racial Bias
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
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