Her Story: The History of women, in books

By Janet Clapp  |  Confessions of an actual librarian.

March has many faces: snowy, windy, sunny, warm, muddy. March also has many names: National Nutrition Month, Irish-American Heritage Month, Women’s History Month. In celebration of the latter, check out these interesting books. Are they only for women? Absolutely not.

0327_RHV_BooksKuninThe New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family
by Madeleine Kunin.
The United States is one of only four countries in the world that does not guarantee paid leave for families with newborns. The other three? Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. Former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin relays facts like these from various academics, business people, and government leaders as she writes about the continued need for change, especially in the area of work/family policy. The book’s title is somewhat misleading because work/family issues are not limited to a feminist audience; they are relevant to everybody in the workplace, parent or not. “It is time for another social revolution, not for the benefit of women alone, but for the most traditional of reasons: for the sake of the family.” (Chelsea Green Publishing, $17.95)

0317_RHV_Books_UnderhillThe Woman Who Ran For President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull
by Lois Beachy Underhill
When I first picked up this biography in 1995, I didn’t know that a woman had ever run for president of the United States. At that time, Hillary Clinton was First Lady and Michele Bachmann was not yet a state legislator. Victoria Woodhull was quite a character: spiritualist, stock broker, newspaper publisher, and in 1872 the first woman to run for president. “But the workings of power, money, and sex that silenced most women in the nineteenth century had only emboldened Victoria Woodhull. There was no one like her in the United States, no one so adored by her followers or so loathed by those she challenged.” (ebook: Bridgeworks, $22.99)

0327_RHV_BooksRedefiningGirlyRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween
by Melissa Atkins Wardy
Just published in January, this practical and eye-opening book advises parents how to fight the insidious messages girls receive from the media and marketing. Wardy offers suggestions for encouraging children to explore who they want to be without being limited by stereotypes. “Part of being a child today means being protected from the commercialization, sexualization, and gendered messages that have invaded childhood. Be your daughter’s hero. Be the person who stands up for her and demands she has a right to her girlhood…Raise her to know that she has a voice and the right to take up space in this world.”(Chicago Review Press, $16.95)

0327_RHV_BooksLean_InLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
by Sheryl Sandburg
Much discussed in the press, Sandberg’s book talks about the importance of women stepping up to lead and the need for change in society. She shares her own experiences and offers suggestions for how women can achieve their goals. Some of the statistics and ideas echo those in Kunin’s book, such as the need for more women in leadership roles. “Whatever this book is, I am writing it for any woman who wants to increase her chances of making it to the top of her field or pursue any goal vigorously…I am also writing this for any man who wants to understand what a woman — a colleague, wife, mother, or daughter — is up against so that he can do his part to build an equal world.” (Knopf, $24.95)

0327_RHV_Booksmiss_fullerMiss Fuller
by April Bernard
This short novel shows feminist, journalist, and orator Margaret Fuller through the eyes of Anne, Henry Thoreau’s younger sister, and through Fuller’s own writing. On Anne’s first visit to see Miss Fuller, Anne’s chaperone tells her, “‘Dear me yes, her father trained her as if she had been a boy. It’s made her goggle-eyed and very odd, of course, but she is a female genius, certainly, though I can’t say if I know that she is a model of the New Woman, as Elizabeth Peabody claims, or something completely unique —. She speaks like a wonder, can quote anything at all.’” The tale begins with the 1850 wreck of the ship on which Margaret and her husband and son were returning from Italy. Henry Thoreau searches the wreckage for Margaret’s manuscript and finds a letter to her dear friend Sophia Hawthorne telling the tale of her life. The letter makes up nearly half of the book and reveals some of the monetary and personal difficulties that Margaret faced. “What I want to tell you, & you alone my dear, comes from a full heart & an over-full, doubt it not, brain.” (Steerforth, $14.99)

0327_RHV_BooksMystiqueThe Feminine Mystique
by Betty Friedan
This well-known title can be found on lists of important books because of its role in the women’s movement. Written in 1963, dated details incongruously mix with broader perspectives that remain pertinent today. “We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: ‘I want something more than my husband and my children and my home.’” (50th Anniversary Edition: W. W. Norton & Company, $25.95)
The above titles, and books on nutrition and Irish-American heritage, can be found at the Rutland Free Library. What have you read about women’s history?
Happy reading.