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Letter to the World: Seven Women Who Shaped the American Century / Edition 1

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1998 Hardcover First Edition; First Printing New in New dust jacket 0393046524. Book and DJ are New, first edition, first printing, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorthy Thompson, Margaret ... Mead, Katharine Hepburn, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Martha Graham, Marian Anderson, S-22, ; 8.50 X 5.72 X 1.27 inches; 368 pages. Read more Show Less

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Overview

In the tradition of Composing a Life and Writing a Woman's Life, a look at the intimate and public lives of seven strong and vibrant women who had a lasting impact on American popular culture and on women's lives.

In wanting to think through modern women's history, Susan Ware found herself drawn to seven larger-than-life women who influenced not only their professions—politics, journalism, anthropology, acting, sports, dance, and music—but also the way women saw themselves and their options in life. Ware recovers the people behind the legends of Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy Thompson, Margaret Mead, Katharine Hepburn, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Martha Graham, and Marian Anderson in compelling life stories. She looks at how they created their persona, how they kept themselves in the public eye, and how they did so for so long. She also speaks to how these women balanced their personal lives—choosing lovers and mates and deciding whether to have children. In the choices they made and the success of those choices are lessons relevant to contemporary working women. As part of living exceptional and unconventional lives, they gave other women the ability to desire beyond the limits imposed on women and allowed them to dream and strive for lives of independence and fulfillment.

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Editorial Reviews

Molly Haskell - New York Times Book Review
“A wonderful evocation of a period in which, for one brief moment, the sky was the limit for female achievement.”
Blanche Wiesen Cook
“A thoughtful, provocative, manifold read.”
Houston Post
“Fresh and original.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ware here gives a feminist reading to the lives of seven 20th-century women, all of whom embodied feminism yet did not espouse it: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, journalist Dorothy Thompson, anthropologist Margaret Mead, actress Katharine Hepburn, athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias, dancer Martha Graham and contralto Marian Anderson. Among them only Roosevelt identified publicly with women's issues, whereas most of the others paid lip service to women's traditional role while giving the lie to domesticity in their own lives. Although the profiles are brief they are by no means sketchy, for Ware Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism has clearly read so widely about her subjects that she projects a certain intimacy with each, giving readers that same sense as well. The portraits are flattering, even if the author finds Hepburn self-centered, Graham overly aggressive and Anderson a touch saccharine. In these well-rounded pieces, she discusses the probable bisexuality of Roosevelt, Thompson, Zaharias and Mead, which, she suggests, was a part of their autonomy. These women led lives so public and productive they became icons, fittingly so, as Ware documents, and readers will feel enriched to be reacquainted with them. Photos. July
KLIATT
The women Ware includes in this scholarly, well-written, totally captivating collection were certainly marvelous characters: Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy Thompson, Margaret Mead, Katherine Hepburn, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Martha Graham, and Marian Anderson. All seven were born in the last 20 years of the 19th century, and all came to public notice in the 1930s and 1940s. They were truly "self-made," carefully creating images of themselves "to sustain public interest in their unusual individual achievements." In this they were successful beyond their wildest dreams. The public has been interested in all of them (except, possibly, Dorothy Thompson) for over 50 years. It would be wonderful to see Ware profile another seven women, perhaps including more minorities, as the beginning of the 21st century gives us more perspective about the second half of the 20th. Recommended for older junior high (about ages 14) and up. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1998, Harvard Univ. Press, 344p, 21cm, 97-45923, $17.95. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Judith H. Silverman; Chevy Chase, MD, July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
Library Journal
Ware (Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism, LJ 11/15/93) considers the lives of seven women who had an exceptional impact on 20th-century American culture and society's perception of the role of women: Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy Thompson, Margaret Mead, Katharine Hepburn, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Martha Graham, and Marian Anderson. In addition to focusing on outstanding achievements in their chosen fields, Ware looks at their often unconventional private lives, the public personas they forged, and how they maintained the public's interest through the media. The lives of all seven women have been the subject of much previous research, as Ware's well-documented notes show. What is unique here is bringing them together and comparing their stands on issues such as feminism, equal rights, choosing motherhood, and aging. While one might wish the author had omitted the fanciful introduction that has the seven women "auditioning" for their parts, this book is both informative and entertaining. Recommended for biography, history, and women's studies collections.--Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Kirkus Reviews
Profiles of a handful of women who have influenced American culture and politics. Ware (Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism, 1993) starts her book with an ambitious premise. Drawing on the lives of seven outsize leaders in the realms of politics, journalism, anthropology, acting, sports, dance, and music, she sets out to explicate the often difficult relations between private and public faced by American women. Though well-trod territory, the subject is perennially fascinating. However, the way she chooses to present these women—Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy Thompson, Margaret Mead, Katharine Hepburn, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Martha Graham, and Marian Andersonþpresupposes an intimate knowledge of them not necessarily shared by the reader. She puts out a casting call for "strong, independent characters"—a device that lends a chummy tone to the book that doesnþt necessarily make up for lack of documentation. As she launches into each profile, she explores these women's professional lives as well as their personal relationships, and therein lies the problem. With the exception of Dorothy Thompson, substantial biographies have already been devoted to Ware's subjects. Therefore, one cannot escape the feeling that more nuanced portraits of these women can be found elsewhere. By trying to place them under a larger canopy, Ware corners herself into writing synopses of the women's lives: Eleanor Roosevelt had "a need to love and to be loved"; Dorothy Thompson "worked hard to make it as a woman in a man's world"; Martha Graham had a "primal fear of being outside the limelight," etc. The result is a few illuminating anecdotes, a briefanalysis from the author on the psyches of her subjects, and an explanation of why these women were important. What is missing is the continuous thread that can tie all these women together, and the lesson women in America today can take from these pioneers. Itþs not for lack of material that Ware fails to deliver what she promises.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393046526
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/17/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Ware lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. She is the author of Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism (Norton) and editor of Notable American Women, Vol. 5.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Casting Call for the American Century
1 First Lady of the World: Eleanor Roosevelt 3
2 "She Rides in the Smoking Car": Dorothy Thompson 45
3 Coming of Age with Margaret Mead 85
4 Living Like a Man: Katharine Hepburn 127
5 From Tomboy to Lady: Babe Didrikson Zaharias 169
6 Front and Center: Martha Graham 211
7 Across the Color Line: Marian Anderson 253
Epilogue: Growing Old Gracefully in Public 295
Notes 303
Index 337
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