Women's History
Book Reviews


Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times
Elizabeth Wayland Barber,W.W. Norton & Company, 1994

Hand spinning, weaving and involvement in the business of cloth manufacture both within and outside the home throughout the ages has provided an economic and creative outlet for women. Barber's book goes back 20,000 years to the time when women began making and wearing clothing created from spun fibers. The book's primary emphasis is on archaeological problem solving and the ancient and classical periods, not the Middle Ages nor modern period. It is an interesting and readable book, full of facts, anecdotes, and illustrations.

"We women do not need to conjure a history for ourselves.
Facts about women, their work, and their place in society in early times have
survived in considerable quantity, if we know how to look for them."
- from Women's Work

You might also seek out a booklet containing facts, poems, and anecdotes on the same theme: Spin, Span Spun: Fact and Folklore for Spinners and Weavers, Bette Hochberg, 333 Wilkes Circle, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

Also available from Women in World History Curriculum is a reprint of an article published in The Magazine of History, Organization of American Historians: "Nimble Fingers: From 19th Century New England Mills to 20th Century Global Assembly Lines." Primary Documents from New England workers, 1830s-1840s and Filipina and Mexican workers, 1980s, and discussion questions to compare the sources accompany the article. Contact this WEB site for copies.

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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