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Stories of Southern women prisoners, prostitutes, soldiers and farm and factory workers supplement better-known tales of first ladies and plantation mistresses in Wolfe's synthesis of Southern women's history. A professor of history at East Tennessee State University, Wolfe draws on scores of written sources to present Southern women's lives from the early 17th century to the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1950s and '60s. She replaces the Scarlett O'Hara image of indolent, aristocratic Southern women with images of women who suffered extreme poverty, deprivation and hard work. Native American and African American women are represented significantly; Mexican-American and Cuban-American women receive sparser treatment, perhaps understandably. Wolfe has tried to cobble together a broad historical narrative out of too many monographs, and the result is thin: the cursory descriptions of many individual women's stories give little sense of the far-reaching social and historical changes their stories represent. Also her writing tends toward cliche: "Alluring as the fantasy of a mint-juleped South may have been for a depression-weary population, most Southerners of the interwar years rooted themselves in terra firma and stoically confronted life's vicissitudes." Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The literature on Southern women and their role in U.S. history is widespread and fragmented. Taking a not entirely restrictive chronological approach, Wolfe has produced the first modern holistic and synthesized study. She not only considers the traditional highlights of women's history but also incorporates literary works, country music, and other sociocultural pieces of evidence specific to Southern women. Wolfe (history, East Tennessee State Univ.) has produced several local history studies of the state of Tennessee. At times her prose is a bit too stylistic and vague to be translated into a concrete idea. However, the evidence is there, and general readers and new scholars will find this wide-ranging book attainable as well as engaging. Recommended for general readers.?Jenny Presnell, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A good introduction to/outline of the history of women in the South, crossing racial and class lines in the telling. This book proved to be concise and readable; I finished it in less than a week. As an under-30 Mississippian, my education in women's history is much of my own making, so the forty-eight pages of endnotes were comforting to me, suggesting that the book has been well-researched. I would recommend it to the literate general reader as a springboard into further reading (I plan to find a book with more in-depth coverage of African American women's history ASAP). The most fascinating surprise of it was the discussion of labor movements and YWCA work in the 1920s and 1930s.
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