American Women: Their Lives in Their Words – Doreen Rappaport (1990)

American Women cover

This was a quick and zippy tour through a large part of American history as seen through the letters and books of some of the women who were actually there at the time history was happening, from pre-Revolution War times to the 1990’s. Although this edition has not been updated since it was published in 1990 (wish it would be!), it is still a really good starting point for anyone who is interested in the pivotal and typically unheralded role of women throughout U.S. history. (It’s categorized as YA and would be a good intro to women’s history for almost anyone, really.)

It covers writings from famous women (such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Sojourner Truth) to those women and girls who led more private lives (such as being the daughter of an early pioneer family going west or a mother who is facing anti-Chinese immigration opinions in Gold Rush California). Famous or not, each writer shows what it was like to experience life as it happened at that time.

Being quite well read in this area (although plenty more to go!), some of this material and information was not new to me, but as it’s really a YA book (that I accidentally picked up in the library’s adult section), I think it would make a good intro for junior high and high school students or anyone else who needs a rapid-fire intro to the arena of women’s history in the U.S. It’s also a good way to increase your TBR pile! (Lots of autobios and bios to look for now.)

Rappaport is a well established award-winning YA author, and she clearly shows her expertise in editing and compiling the volume using first person sources of a wide variety of women, young and old, wealthy and not wealthy, women of color or not, and this selection gives the book an edge on helping the reader have a more wide-ranging understanding of how the U.S. came to be for both genders.

I really enjoyed this read.

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