Saturday, November 21, 2009

Women Unbound, A Preliminary Reading List

The guidelines for this challenge are simple: select and read any nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad topic of ‘women’s studies.’ The dates for the challenge are Nov 2009 to Nov 2010.

I'm going for the Suffragette level. That makes me think of my favorite song from Mary Poppins: "Our daughter's daughters will adore us, and they'll sing in grateful chorus, Well done! Well done! Well done Sister Suffragette!" Suffragette also brings to mind Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of my feminist heroes. To become a Suffragette myself, I need to read 8 books that fall in the women's studies category. Fun, fun!

Here are my initial ideas.

A Midwife's Tale: The of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: Ulrich, a historian, uses the personal diaries of Martha Ballard to draw conclusions on larger themes of women's status and issues in the early days of the US. Ulrich's Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History is one of my all time favorite books and Ulrich herself is one of my feminist heroes.

The Book of the City of Ladies
by Christine de Pizan: This is one of the earliest feminist texts and in it, de Pizan confronts 14th century misogyny head on. By constructing an allegorical city of ladies (I love this idea), she showcases the strengths of all sorts of different women--saints, warriors, scholars, artists, and prophetesses.

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
by Sue Monk Kidd: This is a memoir where Kidd details her search for the divine feminine.

Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer Among the American Romantics
by Renee Bergland: Mitchell was an astronomer and intellectual in 19th century New England. This quotations of hers is fabulous: “The woman who has peculiar gifts has a definite line marked out for her, and the call from God to do his work in the field of scientific investigation may be as imperative as that which calls the missionary into the moral field or the mother into the family . . . The question whether women have the capacity for original investigation in science is simply idle until equal opportunity is given them."

The Hemingses of Monticello
by Annette Gordon-Reed: I've heard a lot about this one since it won the National Book Award in 2008. Here, Gordon-Reed resurrects Sally Hemings and her children with Thomas Jefferson who have been systematically erased from history.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: This is a brand new book written by Kristof, of the Op-Ed page from the NYT and his wife, WuDunn, also a journalist. Here, they argue for investment into the education and autonomy of women throughout the developing world. This looks to be a great read.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present
by Gail Collins: Also a brand new book, also by a Op-Ed columnist from the NYT. Collins focuses on the domestic situation of women over the past 50 years and how it has changed. I have been looking for an account of the women's movement. I am also hoping for an answer to the question: "Was there really as much sexism in the 1960's as they show on Mad Men?"

Good Girls, Bad Girls: The Enduring Lessons of Twelve Women of the Old Testament by T.J. Wray: I found this at a garage sale this summer, a pristine hardback for $1. Gotta love that! In this book, Wray writes about 12 women from the Old Testament, presenting them in historical context, providing a more nuanced view than the traditional Angel-Whore divide, and drawing lessons for the contemporary reader.


Mrs Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf: A classic. I haven't read much Woolf and thought this would be a good place to start.

by Frances Sherwood: A fictionalization of the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, another early feminist who wrote A Vindication on the Rights of Women in 1792 to lay out her case for female independence. And while I'm at it, how about I read Wollstonecraft herself? Maybe, maybe.

The Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
: Gilman was a leading feminist intellectual of the early 20th century, and after she suffered a severe bout of PPD, she wrote this about a woman who feels the yellow wallpaper of her room start to close in on her.

Something by Margaret Atwood--I loved The Handmaid's Tale, so I will be searching for another of her feminist novels.


Markie said...

Great idea! I'm totally in (who doesn't want to be adored by her daughter's daughters?). You may need to remind me once in a while as the year progresses - in the meantime, I'll think about any additions for your list.

Markie said...

Oh - and I'm pretty sure The Yellow Wallpaper belongs under the fiction section. Although Gilman had been diagnosed with mental illness, she wrote the story as a critique of her doctor's treatments (to stay isolated and at home with no writing or painting) and as a warning about how close she had come to getting worse instead of better. A great item for the list and a classic.

Belle said...

I was wondering about the Gilman but was too lazy to look it up. Thanks Markie! I've been interested in it every since Pilgrimage. And yes, any additions would be great.

Care said...

I'm hoping to read Alias Grace by Atwood - it's on a few lists. And I want to read at least 3 of Woolf's. I'm so ambitious.

Unknown said...

I need to copy this idea too! I just read a review of When Everything Changed and had my interest piqued. I also just ordered Mormon Women: Portraits and Conversations, which has great Amazon reviews and sounded interesting despite the bland title.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

After reading this and your mention of "Sister Suffragettes," I found a YouTube version and posted it on my book blog. I meant to come back here and tell you about it, but I see that I never did. Here's the link, if you are interested:

That's a song about the "first wave" of feminism, in the 19th century and early 20th century. I was active in the 1970s and remember the song that inspired the "second wave" of feminism: "I Am Woman." So I posted a YouTube version of it as well:

And now I'm looking for a song to represent today's feminists, the "third wave." A couple of songs have been suggested to me:

"This One's for the Girls"

"Independence Day"

But neither of the friends who suggested these is actually among the third wave feminists. Thanks for starting me down this path. Do you have any fitting suggestions?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Here's where I posted the "Sister Suffragette" video on my blog: