What does U.S. history look like with women at the center of the story? From Pocahantas to military women serving in the Iraq war, this survey chronicles the contributions, recognized and unrecognized, that women have made to the American experience. Committed to a multicultural approach to women’s history, the narrative opens not with the European settlers who came to America but with the Native American peoples who were already there.
Women who seizedopportunities for political and cultural influence during and after the American Revolution were mainly white women. Women’s domestic and waged labor shaped the Northern economy, and slavery affected the lives of Southern women, both free and enslaved. Women took the lead in 19th century movements such astemperance, moral reform, and abolitionism, as well as women’s rights.
The demand for the vote first enunciated at Seneca Falls in 1848 culminated in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. New patterns of work, leisure, and education shaped modern women’s lives after 1920, as did international events such as the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. Women played especially large roles in the civil rights movement and the revival of feminism, as well as in the backlashthese movements provoked.
Moving beyond the well-documented lives of white middle-class women, this survey recognizes the diversity of American women’s experiences defined by race, ethnicity, and class, but also geography, sexual orientation, age, and religion. At the core of the narrative is the recognition that gender-the changing historical and cultural constructions of roles assigned to the biological differences of the sexes-is central to understanding the history of American women’s lives, and the history ofthe United States.
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