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Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life Paperback – August 31, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

In this deft biography, Ginzberg firmly roots Stanton—the first American to synthesize arguments for women’s equality in employment, income, property, custody, and divorce—in the complex swell of nineteenth-century middle-class reform, and reveals her thornier, less egalitarian side. An abolitionist more out of political convenience than conviction, she not only abandoned the movement for black male suffrage after the Civil War to focus on white women’s suffrage but increasingly made vitriolic attacks on immigrants, the working class, and African-Americans in her writing and speeches. The consequences of Stanton’s racism and élitism were “deep and hurtful,” Ginzberg says, and she attributes the continuing difficulty of incorporating race and class differences into gender politics, in large part, to Stanton’s mixed legacy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“In this deft biography, Ginzberg firmly roots Stanton--the first American to synthesize arguments for women's equality in employment, income, property, custody, and divorce--in the complex swell of nineteenth-century middle-class reform, and reveals her thornier, less egalitarian side.” ―The New Yorker

“Lori Ginzberg makes a convincing case for Stanton as the founding philosopher of the American women's rights movement in a lively voice that enhances her eccentric subject.” ―Andrea Cooper, American History

“Ginzberg provides an excellent biography of Stanton, listing both the positive and negative aspects of Stanton's life. In areas where information was sparse (due to Stanton's children ‘editing' their mother's correspondences), Ginzberg did an excellent job filling in the gaps. As for Stanton and Anthony's famous partnership, Ginzberg covers their highs and lows, as well as many of difficulties the two faced in their journey together. As an additional bonus, photos throughout Stanton's life are put in a special section. Not only is this a comprehensive biography, but it truly captures all of Stanton's little quirks.” ―Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch, Feminist Review

“A readable and realistic account of the life of one of the most important feminists and intellectuals of the nineteenth century, a woman who was at once an abolitionist who could sound like a racist and an advocate of civil rights for women whose language often reeked of elitism. This work promises to be a classic and is recommended for all readers.” ―Theresa McDevitt, Library Journal

“A well-documented, well-balanced account of the life of ‘the founding philosopher of the American movement for woman's rights.'” ―Kirkus Reviews

“This biography, while deeply critical of the impact Stanton's racism and elitism have on her legacy, acknowledges that women's rights are ordinary, commonsense ideas in large part because of her life work.” ―Marshal Zeringue, The Page 99 Test

“Elizabeth Cady Stanton deserves a biographer that is at least her equal in intelligence, eloquence, intensity and critical insight. Lori Ginzberg is precisely that author, and the portrait she presents of this exceptional early feminist consistently embodies precisely these qualities. While providing an illuminating explanation of the origins and developments of the women's rights movement, her rendering of Stanton's life, public and private, is a masterpiece of biography.” ―James Brewer Stewart, James Wallace Professor of History, Emeritus, Macalester College

“Lori Ginzberg's biography not only brings Elizabeth Cady Stanton to life as never before done, showing her personal and philosophical faults without defensiveness, but also shows the reader Stanton's principled and passionate radicalism and the continued relevance of her thought. The book provides a fine introduction to the nineteenth-century women's rights movement.” ―Linda Gordon, Professor of History, New York University

“In this deft and provocative biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lori Ginzberg is a savvy guide through the many thorny controversies surrounding this brilliant, charismatic leader of the struggle for women's rights. Both sympathetic and critical, Ginzberg judiciously assesses Stanton's huge achievement and blind spots, providing an excellent introduction to the ideas and actions behind one of the most far-reaching social movements in our history.” ―Alix Kates Shulman, author of To Love What Is

“Lively, readable, and rich with insights, Ginzberg's biography is also unflinching in its assessment of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's flaws. But Ginzberg never downplays Stanton's central place in the history of women's rights. Ginzberg shows how the women's rights movement never quite caught up with its greatest early thinker while Stanton, in turn, never fully connected women's rights to the cause of racial justice and the fight against industrial poverty, both of which unfolded during her long and exceedingly active life. All in all, this breezy, readable book is a remarkable achievement.” ―Rebecca Edwards, Eloise Ellery Professor of History, Vassar College

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374532397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374532390
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Timothy P. Koerner on November 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
During most of my life I have been a student of U.S. history and, for reasons I've never completely understood, people have always fascinated me. Woman's rights advocate, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) is an example of such a person. I have read earlier biographies of her written by Lois Banner and Elisabeth Griffith and while I learned much from both, each book seemed to drag a little in several places. With that background, I picked up ELiZABETH CADY STANTON: AN AMERICAN LIFE by Lori D. Ginzberg with both hope and reservation. But after completing it I can say that, while the book (as with the other two) is both rather short and hardly definitive (more on the latter a bit later), it held my interest better than the other two.

Lori Ginzberg, author and professor of history and women's studies, is well-grounded in both the time period and suject she writes about. I appreciate that she doesn't get bogged down in the institutional history of the woman's movement --something that detracted from the previous Stanton biographies I've read. But above all, she does not shy away from raising important questions about Stanton that have long puzzled me, and she takes probably the most critical view of her subject of the recent biographies. Among some of the questions raised: why did the privileged Stanton become a leader for woman's rights? was she truly the single most important person responsible for convening the Seneca Falls Convention (1848) and what was the real significance of this Convention? and why has history been less kind to Stanton as compared to her long-time colleague in the struggle, Susan Anthony? An example of critical comment would be the author taking Stanton to task for some racist and nativist statements she made during the period following the Civil War.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a splendid, short, readable biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Ginzberg, a distinguished scholar of the nineteenth-century women's movement, is frankly critical of some aspects of Stanton's personality and views, yet she also manages to convey her brilliance and her charm. I enjoyed the rich material on Stanton's childhood, her relationships with her father, husband, children, and Susan B. Anthony, and her deliberate fashioning of her public image as she became a celebrity. I was very interested in Ginzberg's assessment of the eccentric forays Stanton made in later life, ranging from the striking "Solitude of Self" speech to her controversial advocacy of "educated suffrage" and her relatively unpopular Woman's Bible. At just under two hundred pages, this lucid and engaging account provides just enough detail to round out the story of Stanton's life and work without becoming tedious. "I have studiously avoided mentioning every politician Stanton met and charmed and cajoled, or every dinner party she attended," writes Ginzberg in the introduction(6). Footnotes, bibliography, delightful collection of Stanton family photographs.
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It is clear that the author finds Stanton both admirable and irritating, and the author's strong positive and negative reactions to Stanton's personality greatly enliven the book. Probably more so than any 500 to 800 page doorstop could, this well-shaped short book brings Stanton to life. I for one did not miss the myriad of probably forgettable details that another author might have accumulated about Stanton's long and active career. I strongly recommend this book, and also "A Very Dangerous Woman", which is a compact and highly readable biography of Stanton's colleague Martha Coffin Wright.

A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women's Rights
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Not only was this book full of new and surprising takes on a number of women's' right events, but it provides a filled out description of Stanton's fulsome personality with all it's positive and negative features. Stanton emerges hereas more than just a larger than life person, but as a more believable and understandable woman. Ginzburg's writing is lovely and a joy to read!
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By Tabitha Orr on April 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is a well written book, but I think too critical of its subject. The author wrote an oversimplified view of Stanton's life choices which diminishes rather than enriches our understanding of this American original.
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Well written. It should be part of history studies for 7th and 8th grade students and then again for junior or senior high school students. All people should be reminded that all of us didn't always have the right to vote. It is such an important responsibility. And, for women, it took over 50 years of perseverance and hard work to be granted that right.
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This is a tremendous book filled with history of which I was unaware. She and her friends, one being Susan B Anthony, fought for voting rights for women, and many other rights. Extremely important history, much of which can be pertinent in today's climate.
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