Well-Read Lives: How Books Inspired a Generation of American Women

Overview

In a compelling approach structured as theme and variations, Sicherman offers insightful profiles of a number of accomplished women born in America's Gilded Age who lost--and found--themselves in books, and worked out a new life purpose around them. She argues that with Little Women's Jo March often serving as a youthful model of independence, girls and young women created communities of learning, imagination, and emotional connection around literary activities in ways that helped them imagine, and later attain, ...
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Well-Read Lives: How Books Inspired a Generation of American Women

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Overview

In a compelling approach structured as theme and variations, Sicherman offers insightful profiles of a number of accomplished women born in America's Gilded Age who lost--and found--themselves in books, and worked out a new life purpose around them. She argues that with Little Women's Jo March often serving as a youthful model of independence, girls and young women created communities of learning, imagination, and emotional connection around literary activities in ways that helped them imagine, and later attain, public identities. Sicherman discusses Edith & Alice Hamilton, Jane Addams, Rose Cohen, Ida B. Wells, and others.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A beautifully crafted monograph. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"Well-Read Lives deftly balances the big picture of Gilded Age literary culture with the specificity and uniqueness of its individual subjects. With nuance and insight, Sicherman makes a convincing case that private reading practices had a profound impact on Progressive women's public endeavors."--Journal of American History

"An important book for those interested in issues of gender, literacy, or nineteenth-century American life. . . . A fine example of how historical scholarship about these issues can move between specific case studies and generalized trends or patterns."--Clio

"Sicherman's analysis deepens our understanding of the nature of reading itself, exuding some of the very magic that books clearly held for these young women. . . . An extraordinary contribution to the history of the book, to women's history, and to our understanding of reading's power as a cultural resource for change."--Legacy

"Great depth of scholarship and insightful analysis. With its wonderful readability it should also appeal to a more general audience, and will contribute to contemporary conversations about reading in a way that helps us avoid uninformed comparisons between reading today and in the past."--SHARP: Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing

"An elegant historical survey. . . . Sicherman's well-chosen examples . . . make a good case for her argument that reading mattered crucially."--American Historical Review

"An important study of the impact of reading on young women growing up in the Gilded Age."--American Studies

"Sicherman's study of female reading is as inspirational, entertaining, and comforting as the books her subjects pursued and celebrated. This is truly a text to be reckoned with as both a model and resource of the complicated ways that readers make sense of their texts."--Reviews in American History

"Beautifully written and meticulously researched."--Publishing Research Quartely

"The research behind the individual case studies is thorough and rigorous, and the writing style is engaging. . . . A significant contribution to our understanding of the role of books in the lives of young American women of the period under consideration."--Library & Information History
"Each chapter in this book could serve as a stand-alone essay for the reader who was looking for resources on these particular women. . . . A valuable resource for understanding Progressive Era women's culture."--Women and Social Movements in the United States

"Well-Read Lives provides a highly accessible, engaging examination of the latent potential in the female literary culture of the Gilded Age….This is a rewarding look into the power of reading to transform lives."--H-Net Reviews

"This book offers a wonderful look into the reading lives of many women and should be praised for that contribution."--Southern Historian

"Beautifully evokes a world in which women read to construct identity and build community. . . . Elegantly written essays . . . represent a significant contribution to the history of print culture in America. . . . [An] invaluable monograph."--Indiana Magazine of History

"[Sicherman] writes beautifully, evoking the culture and milieu of late 19th-century America with sensitivity and great depth. . . . Sicherman's scholarship is particularly laudable because of the nuance she brings to the individual women portrayed. Hers is not a volume of sweeping generalizations, but of careful representations of the desires, values, and personal mythologies each of these women cultivated to become the kind of heroine each desired to be."--Books & Culture

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807833087
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2010
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Sicherman is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American Institutions and Values Emerita, at Trinity College. She is author of Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters and The Quest for Mental Health in America, 1880-1917 and coeditor of Notable American Women: The Modern Period.
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