Energized by a wealth of new research into women's history, No Small Courage offers an unprecedented chronicle of American experience, charting women's gradual struggle for social and political independence, from the precolonial era to the present. Individual stories and primary sourcesincluding letters, diaries, and news reportsanimate this history of the domestic, professional, and political efforts of American women and explore the diverse realities that they have faced.
John Demos begins the book with a discussion of Native American women confronting colonization. Other leading historians illuminate subsequent eras of dramatic social and political changeincluding Jane Kamensky on women's lives in the colonial period, Karen Manners Smith on the rising tide of political activity by women in the Progressive Era, Sarah Jane Deutsch on the transition of 1920s optimism to the harsh realities of the Great Depression, Elaine Tyler May on the challenges to a gender-defined social order encouraged by World War II, and William H. Chafe on the women's movement and the struggle for political equality since the 1960s. The book retells the story of America, looking at women of different types and in many roles: as wives, mothers, and housekeepers, wage-earners, immigrants and migrants, community builders, political rebels, policy makers, intellectual innovators, voluntary organization leaders-women of no small courage, as the title suggests. The authors vividly relate such events as Anne Hutchinson's struggle for religious expression in Puritan Massachusetts, former slave Harriet Tubman's perilous efforts to free others in captivity, Rosa Parks's resistance to segregation in the South, and the newfound opportunities for professional and personal self-determination available as a result of decades of protest. Dozens of archival illustrations add to the human dimensions of the authoritative text.
No Small Courage dynamically captures the variety and significance of American women's experience, demonstrating with authority and engaging detail that the history of our nation cannot be fully understood without focusing on changes in women's lives.
Of the 10 weighty essays in this lengthy anthology edited by Yale University's Cott, perhaps the strongest is the opening piece, John Demos's incisive look at Native American women. Indian women, he points out, played a crucial role in the European settlement of North America: they made canoes for the traders, served as guides and translators, and participated directly in trade. In Jane Kamensky's essay on colonial women of European and African descent, we learn about demographics (just what did it mean for white women in the colonial Chesapeake that they were outnumbered by men?) and the complexity of colonial marriage. Kamensky also elucidatesDthough somewhat cursorily, Dthe hardships of slavery. Harriet Sigerman describes the 19th-century women's rights battles, looking at women's struggles to get an education, find meaningful work and, most importantly, gain the vote. Karen Manners Smith, writing about the fin-de-si cle, describes women's agitation for suffrage, the women's club movement and women's missionary activity. And in two rousing, if a touch triumphalistic, essays Elaine Tyler May and William H. Chafe introduce readers to women in the post-WWII era: suburban housewives, restless feminists, lesbian activists and ERA advocates. The volume is comprehensive, though perhaps already somewhat dated; it smacks of the 1980s cheerleading style of women's history, and does not reflect recent work that employs gender as a category of analysis rather than simply talking about women as a subject for historical analysis. Still, this volume will no doubt be read enthusiastically by armchair historians and be adopted for classroom use at colleges across the country. (Dec.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.