Women's History
Book Reviews

©1996-2013
womeninworldhistory.com

A History of Women in the West
Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot, general editors. The Belkhap Press of Harvard University Press.

A History of Women in the West: a five volume set. This collection of essays presents the views of 75 historians who write about the experiences of women in western civilization from the ancient Greeks to the twentieth century. The essays try to understand the "condition" of women, the sources of their identities, their roles and powers, their words and deeds, and their many images. This long view allows for an examination of women's changing status, comparisons between the different periods, crucial events, and some fundamental continuities in women's history. Reviewed are three books in the set:

 

 

 

A History of Women from Ancient Goddesses to Christian Saints, Pauline Schmitt Pantel, editor.
Starting with a discussion of the issues in women's history, essays cover topics such as representations of the feminine in the ancient Greek and Roman religions, women's religious rituals, the discourse about women by philosophers and playwrights, the condition of women under Roman law, the view of the feminine world as seen by artists, a rather detailed discussion of marriage patterns in Greece, marriage, motherhood and sex among the Romans, and the roles of early Christian women. The final section discusses the myth of matriarchy and and ends with the words of Saint Perpetua.

A History of Women: Silences of the Middle Ages, Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, editor.
This volume covers women who lived in areas dominated by the culture of Catholicism between the sixth and fifteenth centuries. It examines how women were seen by men, and includes accepted opinions about female nature. Other topics describe controls on women's life, the 'hidden power of women" in the fifth to the tenth century and within the feudal structure, the courtly model, life in the late middle ages, and how women were seen in art. Finally, some women who broke their "silence" are heard from through both their spoken and literary words.

 

A History of Women: Renaissance and Enlightenment Paradoxes, Natalie Zemon Davis & Arlette Frage, editors.
Moving beyond a concern with only women's actions and ways of life, this volume addresses ways in which attitudes and the philosophical discourse influenced their behavior in the early modern period. Everyday life for women in work, marriage, family and in politics and the salon is examined. The emphasis on woman's physical appearance and sexual nature is discussed, as is the representation of women in images and popular literature. Actors, journalists, physicians, witches, prostitutes, criminals and other women who departed from the mainstream are brought to life in this volume, which concludes with the voices of a Jewish merchant woman and a Parisian artisan.

Other volumes are:
A History of Women in the West: Emerging Feminism from Revolution to World War, Genevieve Fraisse editor.

A History of Women in the West: Toward a Cultural Identity in the Twentieth Century, Francoise Thebaud, editor.


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