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

Sicherman, Barbara

Published by The University of North Carolina Press, 2012
ISBN 10: 0807839094 / ISBN 13: 9780807839096
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Synopsis: In a compelling approach structured as theme and variations, Barbara 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.

Some women, like Edith and Alice Hamilton, M. Carey Thomas, and Jane Addams, grew up in households filled with books, while less privileged women found alternative routes to expressive literacy. Jewish immigrants Hilda Satt Polacheck, Rose Cohen, and Mary Antin acquired new identities in the English-language books they found in settlement houses and libraries, while African Americans like Ida B. Wells relied mainly on institutions of their own creation, even as they sought to develop a literature of their own.

It is Sicherman's masterful contribution to show that however the skill of reading was acquired, under the right circumstances, adolescent reading was truly transformative in constructing female identity, stirring imaginations, and fostering ambition. 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. Reading themselves into quest plots and into male as well as female roles, these young women went on to create an unparalleled record of achievement as intellectuals, educators, and social reformers. Sicherman's graceful study reveals the centrality of the era's culture of reading and sheds new light on these women's Progressive-Era careers.

Book Description: "Sicherman's meticulous, elegantly written study is a major contribution to the history of the book and thus to a richer version of American social and cultural history. A rewarding exploration of the purposes reading served in the lives of prominent Progressive-era women, it also moves toward recovering the role of print in the lives of less-privileged individuals. We do not have another book like this."--Joan Shelley Rubin, University of Rochester

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Title: Well-Read Lives: How Books Inspired a ...
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication Date: 2012
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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