Philanthropist and therapist Hunt (Faith and Feminism) addresses elements of early feminism, primarily its interracial and religious aspects, which she asserts were "lost in the [20th] century." "The origin of modern feminism is its Christian bedrock" is a central theme in the book, as Hunt revisits all-women antislavery conventions held in America in the late 1830s. Notable-but not necessarily forgotten-figures appear (generally referred to by their first names), among them Lydia Maria Child, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, and Lucretia Mott, and the lesser-known Mary Grew and Abby Kelly. Hunt is attentive to the involvement of black women, particularly Grace and Sarah Douglass and Sarah Forten. The book is framed by accounts of Hunt's personal history and involvement with women's organizations. Unfortunately, factual inaccuracies (e.g., she names Frederick Douglass as one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833) and unsubstantiated claims (she writes that a group of organizers "took to heart the words written decades earlier by Phillis Wheatley" but does not provide evidence of them having ever read Wheatley's work) plague this lighthearted treatment of a well-known segment in the history of the women's movement.
Historian Johnson's (Northwestern Univ.) first book examines the role that wealthy white women have played in advancing women's rights through financial support for feminist causes. Across seven thematic, roughly chronological chapters, the author examines a century of female philanthropy in the areas of suffrage, labor, education, and birth control, persuasively arguing that donors with deep pockets persistently shaped the priorities and successes of organized feminism. Women such as Alva Belmont, Katherine McCormick, Mary Garrett, and Grace Dodge funded office space and paid positions in the suffrage movement, established working women's clubs, built living quarters for female students, and funded decades of research that brought us the birth control pill. Throughout, Johnson highlights the uneasy reality that such contributions-often crucial to movement successes-gave these women disproportionate influence among activists who were fighting for greater equality. Thus, feminist philanthropists often became controversial figures within the movement they helped to support. VERDICT This compelling work of original and much-needed research with be of interest not only to those who study the history of feminist activism but to those with an interest in the power that private money wields in social justice circles.
Novelist Pierpont (Among Ten Thousand Things) and illustrator Thapp collaborate to create a patchwork of biographical sketches on groundbreaking women, from well-known figures such as former first lady Michelle Obama and the Brontë sisters to lesser-known women such as WWII lieutenant Grace Hopper. The format plays off the Catholic saint-of-the-day book, meant to be read in intervals as a source of daily inspiration. Each entry aims to delineate one of the fascinating experiences and contributions of a women Pierpont and Thapp deem worthy of secular feminist sainthood. Pierpont plays around with style of the entries with varying degrees of success. The entry on Barbara Jordan, for example, is written entirely in the second-person, which is distracting and provides no real grounding of Jordan's accomplishments; the same is true for the entry on Ann and Cecile Richards, which is composed of quotes from the women themselves. There are moments when Pierpont strikes the perfect balance between style and content; the profiles of Helen Keller and Bea Arthur, for example, combine the right amount of introductory information with a written flair that renders these women as worthy idols. Thapp's colorful painted portraits of each subject enhance the book's appeal.