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A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present, Vol. 1 [Paperback]

by Bonnie S. Anderson, Judith P. Zinsser
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 16, 1999 0195128389 978-0195128383 Revised
This classic two-volume history is an exciting and revolutionary look at women's history from prehistoric times to the present. Its unique organization focuses on the developments, achievements, and changes in women's roles in society. Rather than examining women's history as an inevitable progression of events along a strict timeline, this text is organized within a loose chronology, with chapters focusing on women's place and function in society. This revised edition provides a new introduction, an updated epilogue on women's lives in Europe since 1988, and a completely revised bibliography that includes recent scholarship. A History of Their Own restores women to the historical record, brings their history into focus, and provides models of female action and heroism. Lively and engaging, this new edition takes readers on a fascinating journey through women's history and the changing roles they have played. In addition it is an ideal text for general courses in women's studies and women's history and more specialized courses focusing on women in European history. Volume One covers women's history from the prehistoric period to the seventeenth century. It includes topics such as the treatment of and attitudes about women during earliest recorded history; the alternating forces of empowerment and subordination imposed on women by ancient religions and the emergence of Christianity; peasant women's daily experiences of childbirth, family life, and field labor; women's religious lives; and the contrast between the lives of noblewomen and the lives of townswomen in early modern Europe.

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A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present, Vol. 1 + A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present, Vol. 2 + Lives and Voices: Sources in European Women's History
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prompted by the 15th century example of Christine de Pizan (whose Book of the City of Ladies is the only medieval record extant of feminine accomplishments), Anderson, a teacher at Brooklyn College, and Zinssner, a member of the U.N. International School, here ambitiously chronicle the history of European women. Their scholarly perceptions, stressing male dominance in early warrior cultures, expose weapons as subtle as ostracism, as overt as the Inquisition and witch hunts to ensure female subordination. The authors' analysis of ancient religious traditions and superstitions reveals an evolutionary cultural misogyny. Survival tactics used by peasants in diseased and violent days included the practice of wet-nursing to supplement meager crop income. Among women of higher rank, an enthusiastic embrace of cloistered life was the only means of personal expression in a repressive world. Well-documented discussion of each era sparkles with legendary names and exploits (Eleanor of Aquitaine, Katherine von Bora, Joan of Arc), made more meaningful to modern readers by showing challenges overcome by historical women. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA This first volume of a series begins the monumental task of analyzing history from the feminine perspective in a readable style. The authors have sifted through a wide range of primary sources to draw a reasonable picture of women's roles from prehistory to present day. Anderson and Zinsser do not find proof of mythologies such as the Amazons, but they discuss the role that such mythologies played in female aspirations throughout the Middle Ages and beyond as models for Joan of Arc and other strong women. Periods of church history which encouraged women to assume leadership are balanced against reactionary periods which denied this possibility despite Biblical support. Much of the book is spent discussing similarities in women's lives from prehistory until now, using logical categories (rural women, privileged women, town, and church women). The authors take pains to support all of their conclusions with historical citations, while keeping the book readable and interesting, if long. This is not a book to peruse for amusement, but YAs who are curious about the history of women's roles will appreciate the book in small doses. The detailed index will also make this book useful for research. Dorcas Hand, Episcopal High School, Bellaire, Tex.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 654 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Revised edition (September 16, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195128389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195128383
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #871,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Women's work. women's history February 2, 2003
This book about women in Europe from before recorded history until present took ten years for the authors (Bonnie S. Anderson and Judith P. Zinsser) to write. M's Anderson taught at Brooklyn College. M's Zinsser taught at Bryn Mawr College. Their ten years of work was very well spent in producing this detailed history book.
If you read most history books, you'll notice very little is mentioned about what the women were doing at that particular point in time. What was it like to be a noblewoman and have your husband go off to war? What was the daily activity for a peasant's wife? What was labor and childbirth like for women of those times? Was there a Renaissance for women? Did the spread of Christianity hurt or help women?
M's Anderson and M's Zinsser answer these questions and so much more in this well researched book. They detail the archaeological evidence that supports their writing, as well as various written works that provide a glimpse into women's lives hundreds of years ago. There are various pictures of artifacts, as well as artwork depicting women through out the years.
There are many things I never thought about in regards to being a woman in the past. The fact that female children, for example, were breastfed for only a year while their brothers nursed for two years (thereby affording more protection against diseases) seems especially disheartening. The information about the noblewoman's life seems particularly sad in this day and age. Basically a daughter was used as property by her parents who wanted her to "marry well" - perhaps to form an alliance with a more powerful noble's family or to gain land. Some parents even went as far to beat their daughters into their marriages. Their life didn't become easier once they got married.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rich and entertaining, but beware March 5, 2009
This rich litany of examples finds women of all classes fulfilling many roles. It illustrates a fine cross-section of European women through class and time.

Unfortunately, I found fault with factual accuracy. I restrict comment to just one sentence: "When a province, the Vexin, was suggested as dowry for the three-year-old Marguerite, princess of France, Henry II seized her, took her to his lands in Normandy, and married her off to his five-year-old son."

No one "seized" Marguerite. Her transfer to the Plantagenet King Henry in exchange for the Vexin had been negotiated in Paris months earlier amid much ceremony by Henry's chancellor, Thomas Becket. The Vexin was not a province. The county was a strategic, heavily-fortified buffer zone between Normandy and France. King Louis VII of France was willing to trade his infant daughter into a strategic betrothal in order to control it. Apart from the Vexin's importance, both dynasties hoped that an heir born to this couple would unify England and France under one crown. This was "win-win" diplomacy. King Henry dined with King Louis and the infant's mother, Queen Constance, on the evening before he escorted ("seized") Marguerite from Paris. The royal caravan included the ladies and wet-nurses of the child's future household, as well as Marguerite's father, King Louis, and Henry. The two kings lodged the child in her new home, Henry's Norman capital, Rouen, and then toured Normandy together.

Female infants were often transferred to the family into which their parents had betrothed them, because it was believed they would thereby acquire their future in-laws' characteristics. The doctrinal source for this had endured for more than 2,000 years, since Genesis suggested that environmental influences imprint young creatures.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent resource for feminists August 23, 1998
I read this book several years ago and found it well-researched and informative. I am happy to see that it is still available. I recommend it highly to all who are interested in learning about women's roles in history. It's not just about dead white men!
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