Women's History
Book Reviews


Women, The Family, and Freedom: The Debate in Documents
Susan Groag Bell and Karen Offen, Stanford University Press, 1983
Volume I, 1750-1880. Volume II, 1880-1950

This collection of 264 primary source documents from the Enlightenment to 1950 chronicles the public debate in Europe and America over the role of women. It provides rich material for students to explore pro and con views about women's position in the family, the equality of the sexes, women's education, labor and growing need for economic independence. Students will find well known people such at Strindberg, Ibsen, Simone de Beauvoir, Sigmund Freud, Benito Mussolini - the list is long. As well, documents such as national codes and decrees, personal letters, excerpts from newspapers, union records, etc. show how the struggle by men for personal and political freedom was extended to women. The juxtaposition of nature/culture, sensuality/reason, passivity/activity as the primary female/male dichotomy underpin many of these debates.

The documents are grouped in sections which is preceded by a essay placing the documents in their historical context. This is an academic book which assumes some knowledge of the events of the age. Recommended for advanced students and teachers who want a solid often provocative primary source to enliven the teaching of a particular time period.

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Women in World History Curriculum