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They didn't ask to be remembered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Laurel Ulrich wrote in 1976 about the pious women of colonial New England. And then she added a phrase that has since gained widespread currency: Well-behaved women seldom make history.Today those words appear almost everywhere on T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, plaques, greeting cards, and more. But what do They didn't ask to be remembered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Laurel Ulrich wrote in 1976 about the pious women of colonial New England. And then she added a phrase that has since gained widespread currency: Well-behaved women seldom make history.Today those words appear almost everywhere on T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, plaques, greeting cards, and more. But what do they really mean? In this engrossing volume, Laurel Ulrich goes far beyond the slogan she inadvertently created and explores what it means to make history. Her volume ranges over centuries and cultures, from the fifteenth-century writer Christine de Pizan, who imagined a world in which women achieved power and influence, to the writings of nineteenth-century suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and twentieth-century novelist Virginia Woolf. Ulrich updates de Pizan's Amazons with stories about women warriors from other times and places. She contrasts Woolf's imagined story about Shakespeare's sister with biographies of actual women who were Shakespeare's contemporaries. She turns Stanton's encounter with a runaway slave upside down, asking how the story would change if the slave rather than the white suffragist were at the center. She uses daybook illustrations to look at women who weren't trying to make history, but did. Throughout, she shows how the feminist wave of the 1970s created a generation of historians who by challenging traditional accounts of both men's and women's histories stimulated more vibrant and better-documented accounts of the past. Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History celebrates a renaissance in history inspired by amateurs, activists, and professional historians. It is a tribute to history and to those who make it.


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They didn't ask to be remembered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Laurel Ulrich wrote in 1976 about the pious women of colonial New England. And then she added a phrase that has since gained widespread currency: Well-behaved women seldom make history.Today those words appear almost everywhere on T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, plaques, greeting cards, and more. But what do They didn't ask to be remembered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Laurel Ulrich wrote in 1976 about the pious women of colonial New England. And then she added a phrase that has since gained widespread currency: Well-behaved women seldom make history.Today those words appear almost everywhere on T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, plaques, greeting cards, and more. But what do they really mean? In this engrossing volume, Laurel Ulrich goes far beyond the slogan she inadvertently created and explores what it means to make history. Her volume ranges over centuries and cultures, from the fifteenth-century writer Christine de Pizan, who imagined a world in which women achieved power and influence, to the writings of nineteenth-century suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and twentieth-century novelist Virginia Woolf. Ulrich updates de Pizan's Amazons with stories about women warriors from other times and places. She contrasts Woolf's imagined story about Shakespeare's sister with biographies of actual women who were Shakespeare's contemporaries. She turns Stanton's encounter with a runaway slave upside down, asking how the story would change if the slave rather than the white suffragist were at the center. She uses daybook illustrations to look at women who weren't trying to make history, but did. Throughout, she shows how the feminist wave of the 1970s created a generation of historians who by challenging traditional accounts of both men's and women's histories stimulated more vibrant and better-documented accounts of the past. Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History celebrates a renaissance in history inspired by amateurs, activists, and professional historians. It is a tribute to history and to those who make it.

30 review for Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Can be read as a summary of some of the 'high points' of a Women's History course at a good university. Fascinating, emphatic, impassioned, and yet not whiny or exaggerated. Ends with a quiet plea to continue the work of civil rights activists, not just for women but also for people of color and those who are LGBTQ+. Index, notes, no bibliography. Can be read as a summary of some of the 'high points' of a Women's History course at a good university. Fascinating, emphatic, impassioned, and yet not whiny or exaggerated. Ends with a quiet plea to continue the work of civil rights activists, not just for women but also for people of color and those who are LGBTQ+. Index, notes, no bibliography.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This book is like a teaser or a movie preview - it just cracks opens the door to give you a peek at what's out there so you know that there's a lot more where that comes from. Using her own famous slogan as a launching pad, Ms. Ulrich covers an amazingly broad spectrum of time, class, and geography to give us a taste of the breadth and depth of women's history. For example, she discusses the legends of Amazon warriors, women's suffrage, Mrs. O'Leary's cow, the stories of Judith and Susanna in th This book is like a teaser or a movie preview - it just cracks opens the door to give you a peek at what's out there so you know that there's a lot more where that comes from. Using her own famous slogan as a launching pad, Ms. Ulrich covers an amazingly broad spectrum of time, class, and geography to give us a taste of the breadth and depth of women's history. For example, she discusses the legends of Amazon warriors, women's suffrage, Mrs. O'Leary's cow, the stories of Judith and Susanna in the Apocrypha, female Renaissance artists, home decoration in Botswana, Native American basket weaving, and second-wave feminism in the 1960s. The book hangs on an outline provided by books written by three remarkable women: Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan (c. 1400), Eighty Years and More by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (c. 1825), and A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf (1928). Ms. Ulrich frequently refers back to these three women and their landmark books throughout her work. I particularly liked the chapters on women and slavery and on second-wave feminism. In the first, Ms. Ulrich highlighted four "Harriets": Harriet Powell and Harriet Jacobs (both runaway slaves), Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Through these women she tells the story of slavery, drawing parallels with the rights denied women of the time as well. As for the second, I am ashamed to admit how much I didn't know about the last forty years of the women's movement. I've been the beneficiary of so many of its hard-won results, completely ignorant of those who made those benefits possible. Each of the chapters really could have been expanded into a book of its own; in fact, the major quibble I have with the book is that it wasn't long enough, while the individual chapters felt too long - too much information with not enough breaks to absorb the information. But I still came away wanting more. Ms. Ulrich gathers together compelling stories of fascinating women, but there's so much more to learn. This book is probably best used as a starting point for continuing research into women's history. For more book reviews, visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    I know that women's studies scholars have reviewed this book and found it simplistic and repetitive. I, however, am not a women's studies scholar. I am a woman who wants to understand how my culture, stretching back for centuries, has formed the experience of women. I was not at all disappointed. I found this book interesting, entertaining, and educational. I did emerge from it rather grumpy and sharp toward my husband and three boys, but now that my husband is eager to read it as well, I think I know that women's studies scholars have reviewed this book and found it simplistic and repetitive. I, however, am not a women's studies scholar. I am a woman who wants to understand how my culture, stretching back for centuries, has formed the experience of women. I was not at all disappointed. I found this book interesting, entertaining, and educational. I did emerge from it rather grumpy and sharp toward my husband and three boys, but now that my husband is eager to read it as well, I think some valuable discussions will emerge!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I loved this book. It was like sitting next to a pool with your feet in the water: not a true deep dive, and you are aware that there could be more fun in the water even if it is more work, but it's a perfectly pleasant activity all on its own. A splash of 1960s activism history here. A sploosh of witch trials there. A sprinkle of great women writers. I'm one to be satisfied with an afternoon of sitting by the side of a pool. It's cooling, you're still participating--- ((this metaphor will break I loved this book. It was like sitting next to a pool with your feet in the water: not a true deep dive, and you are aware that there could be more fun in the water even if it is more work, but it's a perfectly pleasant activity all on its own. A splash of 1960s activism history here. A sploosh of witch trials there. A sprinkle of great women writers. I'm one to be satisfied with an afternoon of sitting by the side of a pool. It's cooling, you're still participating--- ((this metaphor will break down any moment considering the fact that I can't actually swim so I'll just stop here.)) What I mean is, that for such a small book on such a gigantic subject, it is remarkably cohesive. I'm the kind of writer who has to put any major project through at minimum two full, down-to-the-bones restructurings, so just the sheer organization of this book was astounding me. Built on the spine of this wonderful and chameleonic sentence that can mean so many different things, Ulrich pulls all the question threads out and lays it all on the works and perspectives of Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Virginia Woolf. As a reader, we knew where we were based on the signposts of City of Ladies, Room of One's Own, and Eighty Years and More. We stood there while we were thrown example after example of short sketches weaving in and out of each other. Stories that answer some questions and ask even more. What does 'good behavior' look like? How do the ways it's different for men and women affect things? How do individual women reject being well-behaved? What foundation are they working from? What is history? What does it mean to 'make' history? Shape it? Mold it? Achieve the honor of being mentioned three generations down the road? Affect world events? Is making history the job of the women of the past or the scholars who study them? Is 'making history' really the goal? If well-behaved women don't make history, is it fair to blame that on them? Or should we expand history to respect and allow their stories to matter? Can we ever find our voices now, without a concerted effort to end the silences of the past? Is big, radical, political, effective, intentional change the only history that matters? How do the myths and the incorrect assumptions and rumors tell interesting stories alongside the truth of the matters? If a woman is well-behaved but is rumored to be ill-behaved, what then? It was fantastic. On its ride through women's history we hit so many of my old favorites: Artemisia Gentileschi, how no one actually burned any bras at that first protest in Atlantic City bc they didn't have a permit, Harriet Tubman, the second wave of feminism rediscovering the works of their foremothers. And so many of my new favorites now: the women who stopped paying property tax and the town tried to take their cows, history of Amazon and women warrior tales, the advent of women's studies as a field, ECS's origin story. And also, constantly, more that I wanted and then didn't show up: my beloved medieval woman mystics and their visions, women touted as celebrity sex symbols who didn't put up with sh!t, progressives in the age of union organizations like Nellie Bly, women in my own religious tradition. Instead of being sad they were 'left out,' I found it electrifying. There's so much to learn about out there! Women have such a fascinating and rich history and this book was only able to scrape the surface. For such a short book, it packs a ton of information. (I also, much to my shame, only /really/ realized how much I speed/skimread my easy-peasy fiction when suddenly the info-per-sentence was, like, three times what I'm used to. secrets revealed.) And, again, in awe of the organization. I also adore the visual rhetoric of the cover, but that's beside the point and this review is long enough already. Anyway, read this book! It's fun and it's serious, it's big questions and amusing anecdotes, it's a great Women's History Month survey. It's written for a general audience, but I think serves as a really good gateway to more scholarly reading about a lot of the subjects that are brought up. It's also not hopelessly depressing, which is worthy of noting because it could easily have been a big bummer, but instead was fun not only because of the treatment of the more recent/familiar movements and figures, but of the feminist fire spirit that filled women on occasion for centuries back in time. It's history about history! What could be better?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Oh I really liked this. I judge the awesomeness of a book by how often I stop and read passages outloud to McKay. This gets 5 starts solely because I think I could have read every word outloud to him, except he's trying to read the Chronicles of Narnia right now and didn't have time to listen to me read this whole book to him. It reads in the same way my brain thinks. Lots of details and it goes everywhere. You start talking about Woolf and end up with the Great Chicago Fire. Now that's the kind Oh I really liked this. I judge the awesomeness of a book by how often I stop and read passages outloud to McKay. This gets 5 starts solely because I think I could have read every word outloud to him, except he's trying to read the Chronicles of Narnia right now and didn't have time to listen to me read this whole book to him. It reads in the same way my brain thinks. Lots of details and it goes everywhere. You start talking about Woolf and end up with the Great Chicago Fire. Now that's the kind of train of thought I can get behind! Of course because it goes everywhere, it's not going to give everything the most depth, but it didn't neglect the details. It's just fascinating. And amazing to think that before the 60s and 70s when historians started looking at women, none of the stories in this book would have been accessible to us. "Some people are happy to give feminists credit for things they fear- like abortion rights, contraception for teenagers, or gay liberation- but less willing to acknowledge that feminist activism brought about things they support, like better treatment for breast cancer or the opportunity for young girls to play soccer as well as lead cheers." Lots of food for thought. My brain is going to chew on this for a while longer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Interesting look at women in history. I like the use of literature in terms of De Pizan and Woolf.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Liza

    Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History covers far too much ground in few too pages. The text attempts to relates to the thesis--that well-behaved women seldom make history--but it often comes across as seeming annecdotal and trite at times. The reader learns a little about the Amazons, a little about second-wave feminists, and a little about Wonder Woman, among others. It's all fascinating, but it prevents a level of depth that most readers yearn for. I did like, however, how the author framed " Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History covers far too much ground in few too pages. The text attempts to relates to the thesis--that well-behaved women seldom make history--but it often comes across as seeming annecdotal and trite at times. The reader learns a little about the Amazons, a little about second-wave feminists, and a little about Wonder Woman, among others. It's all fascinating, but it prevents a level of depth that most readers yearn for. I did like, however, how the author framed "minor" characters in history through the research of Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Virginia Woolf--women completely and thoroughly known by all feminist historians and most of the public. The author does create fascinating analyses of feminist art, but again, this seems disconnected to the greater theme. The most interesting and thorough parts of this book are the foreward and the afterword in which the author explores historiography, or, how history is made and transmitted. I think if the author tied the theory and the praxis together a bit more, that this would have been a better read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Diana C. Nearhos

    I really liked the concept of this book, especially being from the woman who coined the phrase unintentionally (Her introduction on the phrase's popularity is great). The book felt a little constrained, however, by her viewing the idea through Chistine de Pizan's City of Ladies, Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Eighty Years and More, and Virginia Woolfe's A Room of One's Own. I would have liked to come at it from a broader stance. This is an interesting read, but I'm not sure I would recommend it to those I really liked the concept of this book, especially being from the woman who coined the phrase unintentionally (Her introduction on the phrase's popularity is great). The book felt a little constrained, however, by her viewing the idea through Chistine de Pizan's City of Ladies, Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Eighty Years and More, and Virginia Woolfe's A Room of One's Own. I would have liked to come at it from a broader stance. This is an interesting read, but I'm not sure I would recommend it to those who aren't used to, or don't really like, nonfiction. It's not a hard read, but it's not a smooth narrative either.

  9. 4 out of 5

    CJ

    I wanted to like this book - really. As a child, I would go to the biography section in the public library and just pull books at random off the shelves to take home and read. The librarians didn't know what to do with a child who came up with 11 books and wanting to check them all out. I chewed through those books every week. I don't know what it is about this book, but the lives of the women she talks about were ... well boring. How do you make history boring? I couldn't finish it and it went b I wanted to like this book - really. As a child, I would go to the biography section in the public library and just pull books at random off the shelves to take home and read. The librarians didn't know what to do with a child who came up with 11 books and wanting to check them all out. I chewed through those books every week. I don't know what it is about this book, but the lives of the women she talks about were ... well boring. How do you make history boring? I couldn't finish it and it went back to the library very quickly.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Just A. Bean

    The book could probably use a little more structure than the three feminists idea, but it was just so enjoyable to read that I hardly minded. As an exploration of how feminism, women and history have interacted, it mostly worked. I very much liked the turn of women's actions being recorded in history, to women's actions recording history. Though it didn't deal with any one subject, with any depth, it used them all to build the case for all women's lives needing to make it into history as more th The book could probably use a little more structure than the three feminists idea, but it was just so enjoyable to read that I hardly minded. As an exploration of how feminism, women and history have interacted, it mostly worked. I very much liked the turn of women's actions being recorded in history, to women's actions recording history. Though it didn't deal with any one subject, with any depth, it used them all to build the case for all women's lives needing to make it into history as more than either heroes or victims.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This is a look at women through-out the centuries who have challenged the prevailing stereotypes and roles to which their particular era and culture assigned them and succeeded in "breaking the mold" to live more satisfying lives. (For those who don't know, the author is the woman who coined the phrase that provides the title of this book, never imagining that a line in a scholarly article intended for a select audience would "go viral" to become a well-known and popular slogan.) It's also a his This is a look at women through-out the centuries who have challenged the prevailing stereotypes and roles to which their particular era and culture assigned them and succeeded in "breaking the mold" to live more satisfying lives. (For those who don't know, the author is the woman who coined the phrase that provides the title of this book, never imagining that a line in a scholarly article intended for a select audience would "go viral" to become a well-known and popular slogan.) It's also a history of the modern women's movement, from the first efforts to achieve the vote for women to the present day (though published before the election of our current president and the women's marches taking place the very week-end I write this -- perhaps an updated edition is in order? Regardless, if you are marching, you are making history!) I did not enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale, but that is likely a personal preference, since I enjoy reading an individual's history and then considering it against the background of the world's wider history. This book cannot go into as much personal detail, since its scope is much broader. Still, I'm glad I read this and would recommend it to anyone interested in history or in expanding the rights of women (which OUGHT to be everyone.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adrianne

    Marvelous snippets of the history of women. Here are some parts that I found intriguing... (1) "Although the ostensible moral is that God will protect the innocent, the operable theme is that earthly systems often fail." page 79 (2) The description of the traditional family on page 124. (3) Alice Walker's story on page 207-208. (4) I loved learning about Harriet Jacobs and more about Harriet Gunman and Harriet Beecher Stowe in the "Slaves in the Attic" chapter. Marvelous snippets of the history of women. Here are some parts that I found intriguing... (1) "Although the ostensible moral is that God will protect the innocent, the operable theme is that earthly systems often fail." page 79 (2) The description of the traditional family on page 124. (3) Alice Walker's story on page 207-208. (4) I loved learning about Harriet Jacobs and more about Harriet Gunman and Harriet Beecher Stowe in the "Slaves in the Attic" chapter.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    It took me a long time to read this book, as I read it in small bites. As is her style, Ulrich packed so much valuable information into every chapter, every paragraph. It was almost overwhelming sometimes, but always educational and enlightening.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Mangler

    I was hoping to learn about women I didn't know. I did, a bit, but not as much as I'd hoped. This is really an introduction to lots of women in history, most of whom, if you're interested in women's history, you'll already know. I was hoping to learn about women I didn't know. I did, a bit, but not as much as I'd hoped. This is really an introduction to lots of women in history, most of whom, if you're interested in women's history, you'll already know.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    A great intro/summary of women's history. A great intro/summary of women's history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dlora

    I was intrigued with the title of the book and really enjoyed Ulrich’s preface explaining how the phrase came to be and the amazing groundswell of people who adopted it. The slogan’s popularity was because it could be read so many ways, mostly in terms of justifying bad behavior or in terms of feminism. “The ‘well-behaved women’ quote works because it plays into longstanding stereotypes about the invisibility and the innate decorum of the female sex.” I read it more in terms of realizing that th I was intrigued with the title of the book and really enjoyed Ulrich’s preface explaining how the phrase came to be and the amazing groundswell of people who adopted it. The slogan’s popularity was because it could be read so many ways, mostly in terms of justifying bad behavior or in terms of feminism. “The ‘well-behaved women’ quote works because it plays into longstanding stereotypes about the invisibility and the innate decorum of the female sex.” I read it more in terms of realizing that the virtue of being well-behaved (or goodness) is reward enough in itself and that lack of recognition is to be expected. So I was unprepared for the body of the book that looked at women who make history. Ulrich’s writing and insights are marvelous, but I was less interested in the topic of feminist waves and angry women. Ulrich says that “there are many ways of making history. Some people enter contests. Others fill family scrapbooks with snapshots, greeting cards, and locks of hair. A few people devote their lives to bringing about change.” And yet most of this book and female history just look at the “few” women advocating in strident voices for change. The first chapter compares three feminists from three different generations: Catherine from the Middle Ages, Elizabeth Cady Stanton from the suffrage movement, and Virginia Wolfe just before World War I. Another chapter tells of three Harriets: Harriet Powell a runaway slave who strongly influenced Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Harriet Jacobs, a slave who hid in a cramped space above her grandmother’s shed for seven long years to avoid the sexual advances of her master; and Harriet Tubman of the Underground Railroad helping slaves escape. I did not really read the whole book, more skimming here and then and stopping to read more fully now and then. I was most interested by Ulrich’s ideas of what history is found in the opening and closing chapters. “Some history-making is intentional; much of it is accidental. People make history when they scale a mountain, ignite a bomb, or refuse to move to the back of the bus. But they also make history by keeping diaries, writing letters, or embroidering initials on linen sheets. History is a conversation and sometimes a shouting match between present and past, though often the voices we most want to hear are barely audible.” She reminds us that details matter. “Details keep us from falling into the twin snares of ‘victim history’ and ‘hero history.’ Details let us out of boxes created by slogans.” I should give the book five stars because of its wonderful writing, excellent scholarship and insights, but feminism itself makes me uncomfortable. Ulrich says "if history is to enlarge our understanding of human experience, it must include stories that dismay as well as inspire." Most feminist advocacy dismays me because I find it so adversarial. I dislike ranting and yelling and the feeling that putting down men is the only way to elevate women. I prefer to be "well-behaved." Ha.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sinuhe

    I LOVED this book. The very short version is that it's a great bridge between pop history (the broad sweep of the topic + tendency to jump around from person to person or culture to culture are way more common in that genre) and academic history (Ulrich can interpret/analyze primary sources, uses tons of detail and nuance, and footnotes extensively to show her work), perfect for someone who reads the former and doesn't think they'd enjoy the latter. "Details provide the contexts in which Wollston I LOVED this book. The very short version is that it's a great bridge between pop history (the broad sweep of the topic + tendency to jump around from person to person or culture to culture are way more common in that genre) and academic history (Ulrich can interpret/analyze primary sources, uses tons of detail and nuance, and footnotes extensively to show her work), perfect for someone who reads the former and doesn't think they'd enjoy the latter. "Details provide the contexts in which Wollstonecraft, Stanton, and Friedan mounted their arguments. Details help us understand the precise circumstances that allowed Artemisia Gentileschi to become an artist, or Harriet Jacobs a writer. Details keep us from falling into the twin snares of 'victim history' and 'hero history.' Details let us out of boxes created by slogans." That last sentence is the key to understanding what Ulrich was doing with this book. The title is of course one of the most famous feminist slogans - and it was written by Ulrich herself decades ago. But she wrote it as part of her dissertation on well-behaved Massachusetts Puritan women (what would eventually become her book Good Wives), and her point was that it was tremendously difficult to reconstruct these women's lives because it's rule-breaking behavior that gets written down in court documents and polemics. And not rule-breaking behavior like "shattering the glass ceiling" or "demanding to learn to read", but "stealing a cow" or "telling everyone your neighbor's a slut". In the introduction, she traces her words' passage into the mainstream, and without complaining or correcting makes the point that the line dramatically shifted in meaning when it was put on a t-shirt. Then, throughout the rest of the text, which runs from Christine de Pizan to the feminist scholars and activists of her own generation, she subtly but continuously makes the point that the women who did make history in that sense cannot be categorized as "well-behaved" or "badly-behaved". The many, many women she refers to and describes in the book often can be construed as both, and "making history" can be defined in many ways, from the aforementioned court cases to literally writing books about history. "Some history-making is intentional; much of it is accidental. People make history when they scale a mountain, ignite a bomb, refuse to move to the back of the bus. But they also make history by keeping diaries, writing letters, or embroidering initials on linen sheets. History is a conversation and sometimes a shouting match between present and past, though often the voices we most want to hear are barely audible. People make history by passing on gossip, saving old records, and by naming rivers, mountains, and children. Some people leave only their bones, although bones too make history when someone notices."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Years ago, I saw the title of this book and it grabbed my imagination. The book didn’t exist at the time; this was originally a sentence in an article that she wrote in 1976. The sentence escaped captivity and was used on t-shirts, coffee mugs and bumper stickers- sometimes without either credit or permission. I used the sentence as my sig. line for a couple of years. Here, Ulrich explores what it means to make history. Years ago, women were pretty much ignored in history books. It took many yea Years ago, I saw the title of this book and it grabbed my imagination. The book didn’t exist at the time; this was originally a sentence in an article that she wrote in 1976. The sentence escaped captivity and was used on t-shirts, coffee mugs and bumper stickers- sometimes without either credit or permission. I used the sentence as my sig. line for a couple of years. Here, Ulrich explores what it means to make history. Years ago, women were pretty much ignored in history books. It took many years of many people digging through old manuscripts to find the women in history. Now days women’s history books and courses are commonplace, but back when Ulrich wrote that sentence, that was just starting. She frames her book using the work of three women writers: Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Virginia Woolf. De Pizan- a professional writer who supported her children with her pen in the 1400s- wrote a book about past women who had achieved power and influence, coming up with queens, warriors, poets, saints, inventors and more with which to people a city of ladies. Christine was ahead of her time, bringing up problems women faced, including violence against them. Stanton was a suffragist and abolitionist with a tremendous writing output. Her autobiography, Eighty Years and More, chronicles the making of a rebel. Told by her father upon the death of her last brother that he wished she were a boy, she figures out that to become a boy, one must become educated. She took care of that, besting the boys in school. Virginia Woolf, writing in the first half of the 20th century, satirized women’s legal and social positions in Orlando, and in A Room of One’s Own, writes primarily about women and fiction but also goes into why women are poor compared to men and why there was so little literature produced by women in the past- because of legal and societal restrictions. These three were pioneers of writing about women’s history, who were rediscovered in the latter half of the 20th century, who were the inspirations for women’s history. The book is not just about women *in* history but about the movement to bring the history of women to everyone’s attention. Well told in a reader friendly format, this book should be required reading for young women who take their rights for granted.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barb Cherem

    The forward of this book that relates how the well-known title has everybody and their brother projecting their own meaning on to it, was the most fascinating part for me. Even though I thought like ever so many others, that I knew what it meant, I found that so too did everybody with very different interpretations than my own. Later-on in the book, we meet the domestic workers that followed Rosa Parks bus boycott and walked to work; are they "well-behaved women"? The author would say that they The forward of this book that relates how the well-known title has everybody and their brother projecting their own meaning on to it, was the most fascinating part for me. Even though I thought like ever so many others, that I knew what it meant, I found that so too did everybody with very different interpretations than my own. Later-on in the book, we meet the domestic workers that followed Rosa Parks bus boycott and walked to work; are they "well-behaved women"? The author would say that they were, as who could be more compliant than domestic workers. And yet, they were the real strength of history making. The book had several themes such as the three Harriets, and the three women from three eras whose work epitomized their era of women's rights which other reviewers have already mentioned. However, the book didn't hang together well for me. I found it difficult due to the lack of developing depth in any one theme; it became a bit scattered and confusing for me. Thus the 3 stars. Here's what another reviewer said with which I concurred:"individual chapters felt too long - too much information with not enough breaks to absorb the information." All in all, I was happy to complete the book. Although I've read a fair amount on women's history, this did have some original contributions to my knowledge base. However, I'd recommend a more current history of women's rights that more parallels my own life history: Gail Collins' "When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present" (2010). Now there's a 5 star on women's history, very much more engaging. Even though it's probably a bit unfair to compare, as this is recent history, whereas Ulrich's book is much broader, with one woman author as long ago as the 15th century. For me, the best story in Ulrich's book was the conversion story of the Beecher sisters visiting the attic of their uncle, where "Harriet the slave" was stowed away, and the different responses of the Beecher sisters. Wow, that was worth the book in and of itself. Some great moments in the book, but overall I'd still only give it the three stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    My daughter bought me this book, which was an epic thing for her to do, because I was enthralled throughout the whole thing. First of all, I've been a Mormon all of my life, and have yet to really run across a woman quite like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (with the exception of my sister). It's such a breath of fresh air to read a historian who is so in tune with women's issues. She made me wake up to the history that hasn't been written about women for centuries, and she made me want to read much, muc My daughter bought me this book, which was an epic thing for her to do, because I was enthralled throughout the whole thing. First of all, I've been a Mormon all of my life, and have yet to really run across a woman quite like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (with the exception of my sister). It's such a breath of fresh air to read a historian who is so in tune with women's issues. She made me wake up to the history that hasn't been written about women for centuries, and she made me want to read much, much more. After spending time with this book, I can fan out in all directions with the suggestions of other books I can read to my heart's content. I was pleased to read about women from the medieval era to the "second-wave" feminists, to know that there have always been strong women ready to go against the flow and stand up for what they believe in. The fact that a Mormon historian has written such an accessible book, without trashing Mormonism [which is a fairly patriarchal society in itself] is a real feat. I'm impressed. I wish there were more women in the Mormon church like Ulrich. We need a lot more like her. But for now, we can enjoy her book, her leadership, and her example. Ulrich comes from a period in time where feminism was kind of a "scary" element not willingly considered in our church. We do have elements of our church such as the "Ordain Women" movement, but what we really need is women pushing for more equality within the church in everyday functions -- and we need women who are well-educated and down-to-earth to do this work. If the younger generation of Mormon women would read more books like this one, they would have a better basis to work from to achieve more equality in ways that truly matter.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Before Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was a Harvard professor, she inadvertently created a slogan—Well-behaved women seldom make history—while writing a scholarly article on Puritan women. Since then, the slogan has appeared on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and in funeral eulogies. After years of seeing the slogan used and misused, Ulrich decided it was time to write a book to clarify what the slogan means to her. She does this by taking the reader back in history through the eyes of the women that lived i Before Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was a Harvard professor, she inadvertently created a slogan—Well-behaved women seldom make history—while writing a scholarly article on Puritan women. Since then, the slogan has appeared on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and in funeral eulogies. After years of seeing the slogan used and misused, Ulrich decided it was time to write a book to clarify what the slogan means to her. She does this by taking the reader back in history through the eyes of the women that lived it. Ulrich concludes that well-behaved women seldom made history primarily because of a lack of records (caused by low literacy rates and a lack of interest in women’s documents). The records of women that survived were of those that appeared in court or in the news. However, when women were able to record their history through diaries, autobiographies, etc., they did make history. Today we have access to a plethora of women that did keep records – from Catherine de Piza, a well known scholar and writer born in 1365; from Martha Ballard, a Massachusetts midwife born in 1735 who faithfully kept a diary; from Harriet Jacobs who spent 7 years hiding in an attic from the sexual advances of her master but then escaped North and told her story. Ulrich ends with this thought: “Well-behaved women make history when they do the unexpected, when they create and preserve records, and when later generations care.” Rated G. This was a fascinating book and I would highly recommend it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Fasching-Gray

    I picked this up while waiting for something and then picked it up again waiting for something else and, like that, until I realized that I was a third of the way into it and that I was reading it for real. By the time I got near the end, I had put the other ten books I am reading aside to concentrate on this one. So, gripping. In a very general way, the book is about the history of women: women in the past in general, women who "make history," and how history and historiography eventually learne I picked this up while waiting for something and then picked it up again waiting for something else and, like that, until I realized that I was a third of the way into it and that I was reading it for real. By the time I got near the end, I had put the other ten books I am reading aside to concentrate on this one. So, gripping. In a very general way, the book is about the history of women: women in the past in general, women who "make history," and how history and historiography eventually learned to see the women who were always there. The opposite of dry and academic, Ulrich skips around to the good bits and she isn't trying to make some grand statement, except maybe that there are too many different kinds of women making history to make a grand statement about them. Instead she just kind of showers the reader with fascinating tidbits. Three figures run through the book: Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Virginia Woolf, who they were, how they first "opened their eyes" to patriarchy and what questions they asked about women in history. For me, my favorite bits were: in the chapter about amazons, she retells some folk stories about scary women who live without men. the entire chapter about slavery and abolition. near the end when she gets into the 1970s and personal (s)heroes of mine like Gerda Lerner. Really great, especially if you like women and/or history.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Oh Laurel, you don't disappoint. I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps it's the way I approached it, grabbing it up for a quick ten-minute read here and there during the day. Gave me lots of time to think over what I'd read. Brain food. Reading this: Like sitting in Ulrich’s Harvard seminar. Made me nostalgic for those lovely English grad school discussions. Came away doubly determined to familiarize my girls with the women who lived through the ages. Still, this book wasn't what I'd expected. I ass Oh Laurel, you don't disappoint. I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps it's the way I approached it, grabbing it up for a quick ten-minute read here and there during the day. Gave me lots of time to think over what I'd read. Brain food. Reading this: Like sitting in Ulrich’s Harvard seminar. Made me nostalgic for those lovely English grad school discussions. Came away doubly determined to familiarize my girls with the women who lived through the ages. Still, this book wasn't what I'd expected. I assumed it'd be a polarizing discussion of why women need to “make” history. But, Ulrich is primarily a historian. She is a top-notch scholar and this work was a thorough and informative outline of the ways women have shaped history (especially, female history) and who those women were, some well-known and some never-known. She covered the major “feminist periods” nicely. As such, the book was fascinating. Loved the depth and range of research, from Amazon women to Christine de Pizan to Harriet Tubman to bra-burners. Realized that I take for granted the abundant access to women’s her-stories that were unknown just thirty years ago. Final Thoughts: What does “well-behaved women seldom make history” mean to you? Are you reflexively “well-behaved”?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    This book attempts to summarize the history of women - their exclusion from it, their expected place in it, and how modern women have attempted to rectify centuries of injustice. This is a lot to try and cover, but Ulrich does a good job at making it readable. At times I felt like there was a litany if stories as opposed to a strong pull-through, and because I didn’t know many of the women she referenced a lot of names and stories melded together. (I do have a bunch of new additions to my “must r This book attempts to summarize the history of women - their exclusion from it, their expected place in it, and how modern women have attempted to rectify centuries of injustice. This is a lot to try and cover, but Ulrich does a good job at making it readable. At times I felt like there was a litany if stories as opposed to a strong pull-through, and because I didn’t know many of the women she referenced a lot of names and stories melded together. (I do have a bunch of new additions to my “must research list” though!) My favorite parts were the beginning and end. She opens the door of “why have women been so excluded and when did we start to question that reality” and ends with a wonderful summary of modern feminism and how we can make history without sacrificing “well-behaved” desires.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    It's a very ambitious book, why do I think this? I was deeply engrossed and realized it was only the introductory chapter, not even chapter 1! I was fascinated by the context of the quote "well-behaved women seldom make history" from the woman who spawned it in a paper many, many years ago. But the subsequent explorations of some of these women was too heavy and unanimated. I'm used to authors like Mary Roach that have an angle or a spin that makes it all their own and that was lacking in this b It's a very ambitious book, why do I think this? I was deeply engrossed and realized it was only the introductory chapter, not even chapter 1! I was fascinated by the context of the quote "well-behaved women seldom make history" from the woman who spawned it in a paper many, many years ago. But the subsequent explorations of some of these women was too heavy and unanimated. I'm used to authors like Mary Roach that have an angle or a spin that makes it all their own and that was lacking in this book. So I was a tad uninspired though know it's an important work that describes the ways that women fought back against not being a part of history or how they changed our perspective on women in history based on their work. Important but not the most engaging narrative for me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    The last book for the "Women Unbound" challenge (ending in November, I think). I thought this was a very good overview. There are lots (LOTS) of anecdotes and the sheer number adds many more women to Ulrich's history than if she just focused on de Pizan, Cady Stanton, Woolf, de Beauvior, Friedan, etc. I wanted a little more depth, though, beyond the "Big Three" of de Pizan, Cady Stanton, and Woolf because I felt like we were skimming over the top of history. But it was still interesting and adds The last book for the "Women Unbound" challenge (ending in November, I think). I thought this was a very good overview. There are lots (LOTS) of anecdotes and the sheer number adds many more women to Ulrich's history than if she just focused on de Pizan, Cady Stanton, Woolf, de Beauvior, Friedan, etc. I wanted a little more depth, though, beyond the "Big Three" of de Pizan, Cady Stanton, and Woolf because I felt like we were skimming over the top of history. But it was still interesting and adds many more women/history/feminism to the long list.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Stevens

    Really interesting read, and I'm sure it makes for great discussion in book groups. Ulrich (the author) covers and impressive span of geography and time as she pulls together women from history in a loose thread of themes. There are lots of interesting historical insights. I only give it four stars, however, because while it is fascinating and 'consciousness-raising', there are so many themes and ideas presented that I can't help but feel that I'm not sure what the overarching point of the book Really interesting read, and I'm sure it makes for great discussion in book groups. Ulrich (the author) covers and impressive span of geography and time as she pulls together women from history in a loose thread of themes. There are lots of interesting historical insights. I only give it four stars, however, because while it is fascinating and 'consciousness-raising', there are so many themes and ideas presented that I can't help but feel that I'm not sure what the overarching point of the book was.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Miri

    4.5 stars. There was so much information in here about amazing women in history! I loved it, and in the last twenty pages I made a long list of feminist classics I need to read (or reread, in the case of The Yellow Wallpaper, because when I read it before I didn't know it was a feminist classic). Ulrich tells the story of feminism, essentially--of women's awareness of their place in history--through the works of three women: Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Virginia Woolf. It's we 4.5 stars. There was so much information in here about amazing women in history! I loved it, and in the last twenty pages I made a long list of feminist classics I need to read (or reread, in the case of The Yellow Wallpaper, because when I read it before I didn't know it was a feminist classic). Ulrich tells the story of feminism, essentially--of women's awareness of their place in history--through the works of three women: Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Virginia Woolf. It's well-put together and went quickly for me because it was so fascinating.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    A fantastic non-fiction review of women in history. It covers feminists from the 16th century up to modern days. It gives great explanations of women's history (including the lack of), the fight for equality, the laws, everything I didn't know! So very interesting. This author would be an amazing teacher to take a class from ! A fantastic non-fiction review of women in history. It covers feminists from the 16th century up to modern days. It gives great explanations of women's history (including the lack of), the fight for equality, the laws, everything I didn't know! So very interesting. This author would be an amazing teacher to take a class from !

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maralise

    Favorite quote: "At any given moment it is hard to know whom to believe or what to trust. That's why details matter...Details keep us from falling into the twin snares of 'victim history' and 'hero history.' Details let us out of boxes created by slogans." Favorite quote: "At any given moment it is hard to know whom to believe or what to trust. That's why details matter...Details keep us from falling into the twin snares of 'victim history' and 'hero history.' Details let us out of boxes created by slogans."

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