Resisting Despair: Narratives of Disruption and Transformation Among White Working-Class Women in a Declining Coal-Mining Community. By: Smeraldo Schell, Kait; Silva, Jennifer M. Gender & Society. Oct2020, Vol. 34 Issue 5, p736-759. 24p.

In this article, we examine how white working-class women reimagine gender in the face of social and economic changes that have undermined their ability to perform normative femininity. As blue-collar jobs have disappeared, scholars have posited that white working-class men and women have become increasingly isolated, disconnected from institutions, and hopeless about the future, leading to a culture of despair. Although past literature has examined how working-class white men cope with the inability to perform masculinity through wage-earning and family authority, gender has been undertheorized in these discussions, treating working-class women’s and men’s despair interchangeably. Drawing on 37 in-depth interviews conducted in a former coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania, we identify three overarching strategies that women deploy in their life histories to cope with disruption: embracing pain as an opportunity for self-growth; dispelling shame and striving for equality; and enduring suffering. These strategies allow women to feel hopeful and worthy as they confront enormous challenges, whether starting over following relationship dissolution, learning to be independent from men, or simply surviving hardship for the sake of their children. We explore the implications for recreating gender identity in each strategy and question how different strategies might serve to protect women from, or alternatively solidify, sentiments of despair.