Women of the World: Well-Known and Untold Moments in History

Barnet, Andrea. Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World. Ecco: HarperCollins. Apr. 2018. 528p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062310729. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062310743. biog

In this highly readable collective biography of four women who transformed American life during a period of cultural, political, and social change, Barnet (All-Night Party) uses primary and secondary sources to demonstrate how these “accidental revolutionaries,” despite working in different fields, influenced values and priorities during the 1950s. With Silent Spring, Rachel Carson effectively began the modern environmental movement. Citizen activist Jane Jacobs condemned the overdevelopment of American cities, and through her work in historic preservation, extolled the virtues of human-scale neighborhoods. Jane Goodall introduced the scientific community to little-known aspects of primate behavior, challenging the notion that animals existed only to be harnessed to serve human needs. When Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, she altered American eating and created the farm-to-table movement with her celebration of local cuisine. Although none of these women knew one another, Barnet skillfully analyzes the overlapping patterns in their ideas. She uniquely separates their voices from the feminist movement of the period, arguing that, instead, they were trying to save endangered aspects of our culture. VERDICT For informed readers interested in the lives of women and cultural changes of the mid-20th century.—Marie M. Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ

redstarBeard, Mary. Women & Power: A Manifesto. Liveright: Norton. 2017. 128p. notes. ISBN 9781631494758. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631494765. SOC SCI

Originally delivered for the London Review of Books winter lectures series, in 2014 and 2017 respectively, the two essays that make up this slim volume are timely and trenchant additions to our public conversations about women and political authority. Beard (classics, Cambridge Univ.; SPQR) ranges across 3,000 years of Western history and literature to reflect on how and why women are so persistently excluded, as a class, from the public halls of power. “The Public Voice of Women” asks readers to consider the many ways we have of not listening to women; “Women in Power” suggests that leadership remains a fundamentally masculine space. An afterword briefly discusses the context in which these pieces were written and the work still ahead. References provide avenues for further reading, and illustrations from both classical and contemporary culture provide visual evidence for the enduring sexism Beard describes. VERDICT Although many readers might have already encountered earlier editions of these pieces, this volume remains a fresh presentation of thoughtful political commentary from a historical and feminist perspective.—Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc.

Blain, Keisha N. Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom. Univ. of Pennsylvania. Feb. 2018. 264p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780812249880. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9780812294774. HIST

Blain (history, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Charleston Syllabus) explores women’s roles in the black nationalist movement between 1918 and the 1960s, profiling prominent figures, including Amy Jacques Garvey, Celia Jane Allen, and Mittie Maude Lena Gordon. All of these women were followers of Marcus Garvey, who espoused black nationalism and black capitalism along with patriarchal gender roles. However, as women became more involved in the movement, they eventually assumed leadership positions in defiance of Garvey’s teachings and worked to redefine the message to be more feminist and inclusive. To accomplish this goal, they formed alliances with other minority groups and tailored press messages, with mixed effectiveness. A good portion of the analysis is spent on groups that advocated for returning to Africa. Blain also addresses the problematic aspects of black nationalism, including alliances made with white supremacists along with colonialist attitudes inherent in the “back to Africa” movement. VERDICT An enlightening analysis of the relationship between black nationalism and feminism. Recommended for scholars interested in the subject.—Rebekah Kati, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Dean, Michelle. Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion. Grove. Apr. 2018. 384p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780802125095. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780802165718. SOC SCI

Journalist and critic Dean offers a look at the lives and careers of ten women she describes as sharp, including Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm. These women are bound by exceptional talent and helped forward American literature in the 20th century. Each chapter is part biography and part literary criticism, chronicling the personal and professional highs and lows of the women’s lives and how they overlapped or intertwined. One glaring exception to this organization is the chapter “West & Zora Neale Hurston,” in which Dean discusses West’s veiled racism in her coverage of the Willie Earle lynching case in 1947. This sidestep highlights that all of Dean’s subjects are of European descent, though from a variety of religious, political, and class backgrounds. VERDICT Dean’s title is engaging and well written, but one cannot help but wish that more women of color had received attention. With that in mind, this work may be of interest to readers who enjoy biography, literary criticism, and women’s or cultural history.—Crystal Goldman, Univ. of California, San Diego Lib.

Jewell, Hannah. She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It. Sourcebooks. Mar. 2018. 320p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781492662921. pap. $22.99. HIST

Buzzfeed writer Jewell’s look at 100 mostly obscure women from history offers brief portraits of women who span centuries and the globe, including Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut, English mystic Margery Kempe, Queen Njinga of Angola, Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani, Maori leader Whina Cooper, Apache warrior Lozen, and Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor. The women featured include leaders from ancient history, warriors with impressive kill counts, scientific geniuses, writers, suffragettes, fun-loving vixens, Nazi fighters, and revolutionaries. They all share a fierce determination to succeed and an unwillingness to accept limitations. And yet, their stories have been largely ignored by history. The book is written in a fun, irreverent, and easy-to-read style. The vignettes will serve to pique interest and motivate readers to attempt to learn more about these amazing women. The modern, colorful layout adds to the appeal, with a continual sprinkling of provocative quotes and footnotes. VERDICT A recommended purchase that will provide readers with ideas for further research and questions about these extraordinary women left out of our history books.—Theresa ­Muraski, Univ. of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Lib.

Karbo, Karen. In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared To Break the Rules. National Geographic. Feb. 2018. 352p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781426217746. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781426217951. SOC SCI

Karbo (The Gospel According to Coco Chanel) has created a compilation of intelligent, independent, and notable women in her latest work. The author excels at bringing interesting stories and facts from well-known women to life, while also shining a spotlight on lesser-known figures who have dedicated their lives to progress. From Martha Gellhorn’s daring reporting on the front lines during World War II to the rags-to-riches journey of author and Cosmopolitan editor in chief Helen Gurley Brown, this collection will delight and entertain a variety of readers. The foreword, written by Cheryl Strayed (Wild), helps set a tone that is both thoughtful and fun. Karbo delves into hardships faced and overcome, in part by the women’s difficult nature; a word she uses as a compliment throughout. The 29 women featured include J.K. Rowling, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Amelia Earhart, Laverne Cox, Josephine Baker, and Hillary Clinton. VERDICT A lively and informative work that would be a valuable addition to all library collections. The variety of women and careers featured here will also appeal to YA readers.—Mattie Cook, Lake Odessa Comm. Lib., MI

Lian Xi. Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China. Basic. Mar. 2018. 352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781541644236. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781541644229. BIOG

The daughter of a banker and Communist activist, Peng Lingzhao (1932–68) went to an elite Christian mission school near Shanghai in the midst of China’s decades-long civil war between the Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, and the insurgent Communists, led by Mao ­Zedong. She grew increasingly enchanted with communist ideology and in 1949 secretly joined the Chinese Community Party at 16, adopting the name Lin Zhao. Lian Xi (Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China) describes Zhao’s fevered idealism; attending a Communist-sponsored school where students were trained to be “fomenters of the revolution” that had begun in earnest with Mao’s collectivist land reforms and mass killings. But when Zhao soured on Mao’s totalitarian rule and political persecutions, she was branded a “counterrevolutionary” and imprisoned along with millions of other dissidents. Zhao’s prison letters and poetry (much of it written in blood), along with her rediscovered Christian faith—which the author deems the “backbone of her rebellion”—buoyed her amid torture, deprivation, and ultimately execution. VERDICT Lian Xi honors this spirited and courageous young woman with an enlightening biography of her life and troubled times.—Chad Comello, Morton Grove P.L., IL

Morris, Bonnie J. & D–M Withers. The Feminist Revolution: The Struggle for Women’s Liberation. Smithsonian. Mar. 2018. 224p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781588346124. $34.95. HIST

Historian Morris (The Disappearing L) and cultural theorist Withers (Feminism, Digital Culture, and the Politics of Transmission) have collaborated on a wonderfully browsable book that introduces the politics, practices, and playfulness of mid-20th-­century feminist activism in the West. The coauthors, sometimes individually and sometimes in a unified voice, provide a ­narrative that synthesizes and ­contextualizes key issues while also pulling out specific campaigns, organizations, and individuals as examples and touchstones. Nine thematic chapters explore facets of women’s liberation between the 1960s through the 1980s, including black sisterhood, sexuality and lesbian feminism, reproductive rights, domestic violence, women and work, publishing, media and music, antiwar activism, and environmentalism. A tenth chapter brings feminist activism into the 21st century. While focused on Anglo-American activism, the authors widen their lens to include activists from across Europe as well as placing Western movements in global context. VERDICT Much like a museum exhibition, this collection uses accessible text and rich visual materials that invite readers to explore in a nonlinear fashion. It will appeal to both those deeply familiar with the topic as well as beginners of this influential moment in feminist history.—Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc.

Women’s March Organizers & Condé Nast. Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World. Dey St: HarperCollins. Jan. 2018. 320p. photos. ISBN 9780062843432. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780062843449. SOC SCI

The organizers of the women’s march here collaborate with publisher Condé Nast to create a lavishly illustrated look back at the January 21, 2016, event released in time for its first anniversary. Insistently multivocal, this collage of oral histories is narrated by the organizers, with personal essays by both high-profile and everyday marchers, and includes a rich collection of images from women’s marches from across the globe. Organized in three broad sections, this book explores how the protest came together, the event itself, and the organizers’ efforts to support participants’ political engagement in the weeks and months that followed. The final section provides a directory of organizations through which readers can take action. The result is a work that resists developing a single authoritative account of the march and instead shares a multitude of stories and images that together become a whole. VERDICT This book will lend itself to casual browsing as well as a more serious study of successful, intersectional grassroots organizing.—Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc.

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