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Reply to Robert C. Kenzer, by Kirsten E. Wood First, I would like to thank Professor Kenzer for his generous review. I'm especially pleased that he draws attention to the difficulty of studying American widows. As I have learned from Latin Americanist colleagues, other historians are often surprised about how little demographic information was ever collected for the early U.S. (and how little of that survives for some locales). While painstakingly close study of a particular town or county can yield a great deal of information about marriages, births, and deaths, compiling accurate estimates over larger geographic areas is difficult and sometimes even impossible. Locating individuals can be even more difficult. Early in my study, I started trying to find census records for individual widows whom I had encountered through reading family papers. Most of the time, I could not. Some might say that is proof that such women were not considered household heads, but the numbers of other women who did appear as householders and slaveholders in the manuscript census records I sampled suggest otherwise. (In any event, a census taker's observations need not have matched the day-to-day reality of a particular household and community, not least because legal title to land did not march in lockstep with functional authority. As slaves well knew, a widow might technically own neither them nor the land on which they labored, but still be in charge of both for years on end.) Instead of attempting a quantitative (or legalistic) study, I relied heavily on sources left by the literate. Diaries, letters, wills, and especially the countless slips of paper that documented economic transactions built up into a picture of female mastery through widowhood. I hope that my findings are intriguing--or controversial--enough to encourage further study of widowhood in other areas of the early nineteenth century, North and South. After all, as Kenzer points out, my study explores only the southeastern states, rather than the entire "Old South"--something I could find no sufficiently deft way to indicate in my title but which I hope is clear in the introduction. Kenzer's review also reminds me that an author's idea of what her book is "really about" does not necessarily determine how readers perceive it. For most of the years I worked on the project, I would have said that it was "really about" mastery and that my widowed subjects were in a sense a means to an end. That is, I had not decided first to study widows, and then settled on this group. Rather, I wanted to look at gender and power in the Old South, and I came up with slaveholding widows. This distinction speaks, I think, to a tension between being a woman's historian and a historian of gender. The two are not unrelated, of course, but they are not the same either. From the first, I intended my study to test (and, I hoped, challenge) what southern historians were writing about householding, slavery, and patriarchy in the Old South. But that leaning towards "gender" was sometimes defensive and perhaps had always been: how could I possibly justify my topic unless my group of women told us about something else more important? Bringing still more complexity to our already fractured generalizations about women's history apparently was not enough; gender offered more integrative promise, it seemed. Yet over time, I realized that I also had to think about widowhood as a category and to think comparatively across space and time, even if (or especially if) that played into the hands of those who decried fragmentation. Some might argue that I did not do this enough, in terms either of region or of socioeconomic differences among slaveholders, and they might be right. Nonetheless, thinking about the different labor arrangements of richer and poorer slaveholders and of northern and southern farmers, for example, helped me clarify the core importance of both unfree labor and overall wealth to slaveholding widows. With questions more deeply rooted in comparative women's history, I would very likely have come to other conclusions, and I would certainly have structured the book differently. But I like to think that the picture of widows' ability--and responsibility--to manage households and slaves would still have been as clear and still, I trust, as provocative, both for southern historians and for scholars of widowhood and women more broadly.