Betsy Mix Cowles: Champion of Equality

Betsy Mix Cowles: Champion of Equality

by Stacey M Robertson
     
 

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Betsy Mix Cowles—a champion of equality whose circle of acquaintances included Frederick Douglass, Abby Kelley, and William Lloyd Garrison—is a brilliant example of what an educated and independent woman can accomplish. A staunch defender of abolitionism, Cowles also took up the cause of women’s rights and dedicated her life to the advocacy of women

Overview

Betsy Mix Cowles—a champion of equality whose circle of acquaintances included Frederick Douglass, Abby Kelley, and William Lloyd Garrison—is a brilliant example of what an educated and independent woman can accomplish. A staunch defender of abolitionism, Cowles also took up the cause of women’s rights and dedicated her life to the advocacy of women’s access to education, equal rights, and independence in the pre–Civil War era. The life of this devoted social reformer illuminates the struggles and historical developments relating to abolitionism and the fledgling women’s movement during one of the most contentious periods in American history.

About the Lives of American Women series:

Selected and edited by renowned women’s historian Carol Berkin, these brief biographies are designed for use in undergraduate courses. Rather than a comprehensive approach, each biography focuses instead on a particular aspect of a woman’s life that is emblematic of her time, or which made her a pivotal figure in the era. The emphasis is on a “good read,” featuring accessible writing and compelling narratives, without sacrificing sound scholarship and academic integrity. Primary sources at the end of each biography reveal the subject’s perspective in her own words. Study questions and an annotated bibliography support the student reader.

 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/14/2013
During the 1840s and ’50s, in an era when shoulder-to-shoulder crowds gathered to hear nationally recognized orators, reformer Cowles’s work as an educator and grassroots organizer helped her spur politically progressive northern Ohioans to action. Her devout religious philosophy and unwavering beliefs informed her support of antislavery and women’s movements as well as education reform. Robertson (Parker Pillsbury) uses Cowles’s story to illustrate the difficulties faced by unmarried, educated women and the larger societal discrimination against both blacks and women in antebellum America. This straightforward introductory text gives students an understanding of competing 19th century social movements (though the author occasionally relies on overgeneralizations about them), as well as a description of life in Ohio during the period. Interestingly, Cowles upset some abolitionists by arguing for racial equality—in addition to fighting to end slavery—a position best illustrated by quotes from her letters and speeches, none of which are presented here. Because of the emphasis on her low-key leadership and dedication to the classroom, there are few personal details (other than an account of her relationships with her sisters). As a result, Robertson’s book depicts his subject’s deep convictions but doesn’t reveal much about the woman behind them. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Robertson tells Cowles’ story with fresh appreciation and information… Primary sources, notes, an annotated bibliography, and study questions add to the books’ usefulness and interest."
Booklist

Praise for the Lives of American Women series

"Finally! The majority of students—by which I mean women—will have the opportunity to read biographies of women from our nation’s past. (Men can read them too, of course!) The ‘Lives of American Women’ series features an eclectic collection of books, readily accessible to students who will be able to see the contributions of women in many fields over the course of our history. Long overdue, these books will be a valuable resource for teachers, students, and the public at large."
Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty

"Just what any professor wants: books that will intrigue, inform, and fascinate students! These short, readable biographies of American women—specifically designed for classroom use—give instructors an appealing new option to assign to their history students."
Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History, Cornell University

"For educators keen to include women in the American story, but hampered by the lack of thoughtful, concise scholarship, here comes ‘Lives of American Women,’ embracing Abigail Adams’s counsel to John—‘remember the ladies.’ And high time, too!"
Lesley S. Herrmann, Executive Director, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

"These books are, above all, fascinating stories that will engage and inspire readers. They offer a glimpse into the lives of key women in history who either defied tradition or who successfully maneuvered in a man’s world to make an impact. The stories of these vital contributors to American history deliver just the right formula for instructors looking to provide a more complicated and nuanced view of history."
Rosanne Lichatin, 2005 Gilder Lehrman Preserve America History Teacher of the Year

"Students both in the general survey course and in specialized offerings like my course on U.S. women’s history can get a great understanding of an era from a short biography. Learning a lot about a single but complex character really helps to deepen appreciation of what women’s lives were like in the past."
Patricia Cline Cohen, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Biographies are, indeed, back. Not only will students read them, biographies provide an easy way to demonstrate particularly important historical themes or ideas. . . . Undergraduate readers will be challenged to think more deeply about what it means to be a woman, citizen, and political actor. . . . I am eager to use this in my undergraduate survey and specialty course."
Jennifer Thigpen, Washington State University, Pullman

"The Lives of American Women authors raise all of the big issues I want my classes to confront—and deftly fold their arguments into riveting narratives that maintain students’ excitement."
Woody Holton, author of Abigail Adams

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813347714
Publisher:
Westview Press
Publication date:
11/26/2013
Series:
Lives of American Women Series
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Stacey M. Robertson is the Oglesby Professor of American Heritage at Bradley University where she has taught since 1994. She is the author of Parker Pillsbury: Radical Abolitionist, Male Feminist, Hearts Beating for Liberty: Women Abolitionists in the Old Northwest, and Antebellum Women: Private, Public, and Political, co-authored with Carol Lasser. She is the recipient of many teaching awards and research fellowships and has lectured at dozens of different venues across the country.

Series Editor Carol Berkin is a well-known women’s historian and the author of many popular and scholarly books, including Civil War Wives. She is Professor of History Emerita at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and she is a member of the Society of American Historians.

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