In this book, Lori D. Ginzberg examines benevolent work performed by middle- and upper-middle-class American women from the 1820s to 1885 and offers a new interpretation of the shifting political contexts and meanings of this long tradition of women's reform activism.
"Ginzberg offers a carefully nuanced interpretation of antebellum women reformers. . . . [Her] determination to juxtapose issues usually studied in isolation could stand as a model for American social historians of any period. Her questions about the intersections of gender, morality, class, and politics will remain significant for years to come."-Peggy Pascoe, American Historical Review
"To read Ginzberg is to confront the difficult questions which face today's feminists. Is it possible for feminism to empower women without adopting an essentialist stance? Can a feminism that focuses on difference still fight for equality? Can feminism cross class lines and not simply mask class goals? These are the larger questions Ginzberg's ambitious book ultimately poses. The boldness of her thesis and the significance of the issues she raises within the historical context of female benevolence have already provoked debate and made her book required reading in women's history."-Sarah Stage, Reviews in American History
COWINNER OF THE 1991 NATIONAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S BOOK PRIZE IN AMERICAN HISTORY
Ginzberg, professor of history and women's studies at Penn State University, here theorizes that organized charity in the U.S. in the last century evolved from a gender-based movement to a class-based one. The prominent do-gooders in the early 1800s were primarily white, Protestant women of means whose activism flowered after the Civil War in suffragette, temperance and other movements. Citing feminist studies of the period and the work and writing of the century's activist women, Ginzberg traces the role of women in the development of class identity and the emergence of a middle class. The long tradition of women's reform activism is copiously documented in this scholarly thematic study. (Aug.)