American Women's History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

American Women's History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

Susan Ware

Language: English

Pages: 160

ISBN: 0199328331

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 1607, Powhatan teenager Pocahontas first encountered English settlers when John Smith was brought to her village as a captive. In 1920, the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the constitutional right to vote. And in 2012, the U.S. Marine Corps lifted its ban on women in active combat, allowing female marines to join the sisterhood of American women who stand at the center of this country's history. Between each of these signal points runs the multi-layered experience of American women, from pre-colonization to the present.

In American Women's History: A Very Short Introduction Susan Ware emphasizes the richly diverse experiences of American women as they were shaped by factors such as race, class, religion, geographical location, age, and sexual orientation. The book begins with a comprehensive look at early America, with gender at the center, making it clear that women's experiences were not always the same as men's, and looking at the colonizers as well as the colonized, along with issues of settlement, slavery, and regional variations. She shows how women's domestic and waged labor shaped the Northern economy, and how slavery affected the lives of both free and enslaved Southern women. Ware then moves through the tumultuous decades of industrialization and urbanization, describing the 19th century movements led by women (temperance, moral reform, and abolitionism), She links women's experiences to the familiar events of the Civil War, the Progressive Era, and World War I, culminating in 20th century female activism for civil rights and successive waves of feminism.

Ware explores the major transformations in women's history, with attention to a wide range of themes from political activism to popular culture, the work force and the family. From Anne Bradstreet to Ida B. Wells to Eleanor Roosevelt, this Very Short Introduction recognizes women as a force in American history and, more importantly, tells women's history as American history. At the core of Ware's narrative is the recognition that gender - the changing historical and cultural constructions of roles assigned to the biological differences of the sexes - is central to understanding the history of American women's lives, and to the history of the United States.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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but were also more vulnerable to accusation because of their outlier status. And in a generational twist, their accusers were often young girls, perhaps enjoying the thrill of being the center of attention—“Whats that?” demanded seventeen-year-old Mercy Short, “Must the Younger Women, do yee say, hearken to the Elder?”—as the accusations were hurled. At Salem, 115 local residents were accused of being witches, three-quarters of them women, and nineteen were executed. Only when religious and

Thus did Sarah Grimké sign a letter to a friend in the year 1838. This sense of sisterhood had its roots in the eighteenth century but came to fruition in the Northeast in the first half of the nineteenth in the concept of separate spheres, that is, the way in which women’s lives were supposed to revolve around the familial and private, whereas men were expected to inhabit the wider world of politics, work, and public life. As the dual meanings of Grimké’s phrase suggested, the doctrine of

had much more freedom once chaperonage went the way of horse-drawn carriages. Men could be friends and buddies, not just future husbands, reflecting a new sociability in modern life. These new freedoms caused conflict and confusion as well as liberation, especially among parents shocked at the new liberties being taken by what the movies dubbed “our dancing daughters.” And this conflict was not just limited to the white middle class. Adolescent Mexican American girls embraced the new flapper

more equity in the workplace and family life, but it did encourage the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The addition of “sex” to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an even more far-reaching legislative achievement because it gave women a crucial legal tool with which to challenge workplace discrimination. In turn the enthusiastic reaction to Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique suggested a groundswell of popular dissatisfaction with contemporary women’s lives. In 1966 a group of

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