Letter to the World: Seven Women Who Shaped the American Century

Susan Ware, Author
Susan Ware, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-393-04652-6
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 370 pages - 978-0-393-34321-2
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-674-52545-0
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Ware here gives a feminist reading to the lives of seven 20th-century women, all of whom embodied feminism yet did not espouse it: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, journalist Dorothy Thompson, anthropologist Margaret Mead, actress Katharine Hepburn, athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias, dancer Martha Graham and contralto Marian Anderson. Among them only Roosevelt identified publicly with women's issues, whereas most of the others paid lip service to women's traditional role while giving the lie to domesticity in their own lives. Although the profiles are brief they are by no means sketchy, for Ware (Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism) has clearly read so widely about her subjects that she projects a certain intimacy with each, giving readers that same sense as well. The portraits are flattering, even if the author finds Hepburn self-centered, Graham overly aggressive and Anderson a touch saccharine. In these well-rounded pieces, she discusses the probable bisexuality of Roosevelt, Thompson, Zaharias and Mead, which, she suggests, was a part of their autonomy. These women led lives so public and productive they became icons, fittingly so, as Ware documents, and readers will feel enriched to be reacquainted with them. Photos. (July)
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