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Women's Struggle for Equality: The First Phase, 1828-1876 (American Ways Series) Hardcover – April 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-1566631457 ISBN-10: 1566631459

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Product Details

  • Series: American Ways Series
  • Hardcover: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (April 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566631459
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566631457
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,041,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Both of these new titles provide a biographical and political base for dealing with the feminist and political aspects of the women's suffrage movement in the United States, but they examine different time periods and regions. Matthews (Toward a New Society; American Thought and Culture 1800-1830, Macmillan, 1990) looks at the roots of the Northern women's suffrage crusade in the reform movements of the liberal, religious middle class. Her focus is the feminist activity of the movement rather than the social history of women's lives. She covers no new ground, and her decision to list sources at the end, rather than to provide notes, makes tracing her ideas difficult. Still, she provides a good summary for the casual reader and a textbook for history students. In contrast, Green (history, Sweet Briar Coll.) concentrates on the feminist politics of the Southern suffragist (primarily antisuffragist) movement of the postbellum South. Through her examination of over 800 middle-class women, both from the rank-and-file as well as those in leadership roles, Green presents a more holistic picture of women's rights in the region. She looks at the effects of urbanization, race, and states rights on the organization and activities on both sides of the suffrage question. The result is a fresh look at the Southern women's suffrage question, which had previously been considered only on a state-by-state basis and through the eyes of movement leaders. Highly recommended.?Jenny Presnell, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Basing her work on printed sources and monographs, Matthews reviews the 19th-century women's movement during what she terms its first phase: from Fanny Wright to the Centennial Exhibition protest. This phase, she writes, was more like the 1960s and the 1970s than the 1890s. She find the period distinguished by advocates' insistence on equality (transformation rather than reform), their language of natural rights, and repudiation of gender boundaries. Focusing resolutely on the women's movement—rather than domesticity of women's benevolence—Matthews moves briskl . . . .Informed synthesis, sensible readings, and clear prose make this a good overall introduction for undergraduates and general readers. . . .Helpful bibliographic essay. Upper-division undergraduates and above. (CHOICE)

Jean Matthews brings to life the women and men who sought gender equality of rights, opportunities, and respect from the earliest years of the crusade through the 1870s. . . .As she examines the work of America's earliest women's advocates, Matthews not only enumerates their contributions to the movement but also provides richly-detailed views of their private lives. . . .Those who believe that they already know the story will discover that they have broadened their understanding of one of the most important forces in the nineteenth-century American history. (Journal of the Early Republic)

In Women's Struggle for Equality: The First Phase, 1828-1876, Jean V. Matthews has crafted a concise and highly readable synthesis of recent suffrage scholarship. . . .Matthews herself, like the women she writes about, has bravely ventured into uncharted territory. A narrative history of the early years of the women's movement was sorely needed, and she has provided an excellent example of what a well-written synthesis should be. . . .In Women's Struggle for Equality, Jean V. Matthews has written a skillful introduction to and examination of the early years of a revolutionary movement. (H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online)

Matthews narrates a phrase of women's struggle that shared more conceptions, goals, and methods with the struggles of the 1960s and 1970s than with the more refined movements and disciplined organizations of the later 19th century. The Woman Question, roles and rights, launching the movement, diagnosing the problem, and sex and suffrage are among her topics. (Book News, Inc.)

Jean Matthew's Women Struggle for Equality provides an easily-absorbed history of the first phases of the women's movement from 1828-76. These were pivotal early years, marking the birth of one of the most important social movements of the 19th century: opponents as well as advocates of the movement are revealed, placing this a step above the usual biographical or historical focus on advocates alone. (Bookwatch)

A wonderful synthesis of the women's rights movement...remarkable. (Wendy Hamand Venet The Historian)

Highly readable...can introduce women's rights and suffrage movements to the reading public...a vital strand of nineteenth-century history. (Ann D. Gordon Civil War History)

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Format: Paperback
As Jean Matthews demonstrates in this excellent survey, feminism has long been a controversial movement. From its origins in Enlightenment thinking, it has challenged longstanding beliefs about women and male-female relationships. Matthews' book offers a study of the emergence of the women's movement in mid-nineteenth century America, charting both its broader intellectual origins and the context of contemporary reform movements.

Both strands are integral to understanding how feminism developed as it did. Matthews starts by describing traditional views of women, views that were under assault by Enlightenment ideas about equality and natural rights. The first gains were made in education, where the assumptions of women's mental inferiority to men came under increasing assault. Yet from the first there were disagreements within the incipient movement, as education advocates such as Catherine Beecher balked at the more radical ideas of Frances Wright and others.

One of the great strengths of the book is in Matthews's explanation of the ties between the women's movement and the swelling reform movements of the 1830s and 1840s. Many women joined the crusade for moral reform, gaining experience that would later be applied to campaigns for women's rights. No effort proved to be more important, though, than the campaign against slavery. Here women joined a campaign demanding liberty for a population legally defined as second-class people, just as women were at that time. Though Matthews eschews the idea of a direct evolution, she does acknowledge the influence, as well as the fact that many of the early male supporters cam from the ranks of the abolitionists.

Yet the Civil War represented a turning point for the movement.
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