From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. McMillen, who chairs the history department at Davidson College, presents a fine history of the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, which galvanized the women's movement through the remainder of the 19th century and also affected concurrent struggles for temperance, abolition and educational reform. Narrowing her focus to four suffragists—Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone—McMillen nimbly weaves their stories with the larger narrative of reform. After a splendid introductory chapter that outlines the legal injustices most women suffered (typically, they could not vote, hold property or receive equal pay for their work), McMillen describes the convention itself, about which we know relatively little (Stanton gave it just two sentences in her mammoth memoir) and then traces its unexpectedly weighty impact on reformers through the decades. She does an outstanding job of discussing how religion functioned as both an impetus and an obstacle to reform, and pays particular attention to how the women's movement broke apart during Reconstruction because of internal bickering, racism and class divisions. This is not a revisionist work or a substantial challenge to the conventional historiography of suffrage, but a well-written and cogent synthesis accessible to the general reader while remaining firmly grounded in primary sources. 20 b&w illus. (Feb.)
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"McMillen tells the story of the woman's rights movement quite well, and her book adds to our understanding of the woman's rights movement."--Sherry H. Penney, The Journal of American History
"McMillen...presents a fine history of the 1848 Seneca Falls convention...a well-written and cogent synthesis accessible to the general reader while remaining firmly grounded in primary sources."--Publishers Weekly
"McMillen clearly articulates 50 years of critical women's political activism.... If for no other reason, that discussion of the relationship between race and gender struggles makes this work particularly timely in the 2008 election season."--Bust
"Sally McMillen weaves together compelling biographies of colorful leaders with an engaging analysis of the broader reform movements that transformed the texture and trajectory of American society. It is an extraordinary story of ideals and energies that continue to shape American life. In short, McMillen offers a learned and lucid overview of a movement that still moves us."--David Emory Shi, President of Furman University; author of Facing Facts: Realism in American Thought and Culture, 1850-1900
"Tracing the developments that led up to and away from the Woman's Rights Convention of 1848, the volume makes a major contribution to women's history and to American history."--Nancy A. Hewitt, Rutgers University
"This book provides a compulsively readable history of nineteenth-century American feminism--its origins, struggles, achievements, and legacies. I know of no more insightful account of the birth and evolution of the movement to overcome gender inequality."--Steven Mintz, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History, University of Houston
"Sally McMillen offers the most complete discussion yet of the origins and the impact of this event that started the American women's movement and would change the world."--Marjorie Julian Spruill, Professor of History, The University of South Carolina; author of ew Women of the New South
"McMillen deftly demonstrates how ordinary women transformed their lives and America's future by rejecting the pedestal to join the rough and tumble of nineteenth century reform politics. Her achievement is to make this transformation accessible yet complex, commonplace yet extraordinary."--Catherine Clinton, Queen's University-Belfast
"In this gracefully written study, McMillen offers a deft synthesis of what might be called the first century of the struggle for women's rights."--Philip Jenkins and Grant A. Wacker, Christian Century
"In this gracefully written study, McMillen offers a deft synthesis of what might be called the first century of the struggle for women's rights."--Christian Century