You?ve come a long way, baby, as this illustrated timeline highlighting the achievements of women in America demonstrates. The book, which grew out of a traveling exhibit of the same name, consists of brief descriptions of more than 900 women, both famous and forgotten, who have impacted the nation, mostly through politics, academe, business, technology, or the arts. The most stirring entries involve those who dared to defy the gender norms of their day, like the women who took up arms in the Revolutionary War, spoke out against slavery, and marched for suffrage. A number of entries provide interesting trivia, including the fact that women invented paper grocery bags (Margaret Knight, 1870) and Kevlar (Stephanie Kwolek, 1965). Many describe females who were firsts in their fields, and some of these are more momentous than others — I appreciated reading that Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, for The Age of Innocence, but can?t say I felt edified upon learning that Margaret Petherbridge Farrar was the first woman to create a crossword puzzle book. While this unabashedly celebratory book is feminism at its softest and fuzziest, it?s enjoyable to flip through and would make a fine Mother?s Day gift, certainly sparking more interesting conversation than another bouquet of flowers.
About the Author
Barbara Spindel is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Daily Beast, The San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out New York, Tablet, Details, Spin, the New York Times' Motherlode blog, and other publications. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies.