A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present

Bonnie S. Anderson, Author, Judith P. Zinsser, With HarperCollins Publishers $27.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-06-015850-7
Prompted by the 15th century example of Christine de Pizan (whose Book of the City of Ladies is the only medieval record extant of feminine accomplishments), Anderson, a teacher at Brooklyn College, and Zinssner, a member of the U.N. International School, here ambitiously chronicle the history of European women. Their scholarly perceptions, stressing male dominance in early warrior cultures, expose weapons as subtle as ostracism, as overt as the Inquisition and witch hunts to ensure female subordination. The authors' analysis of ancient religious traditions and superstitions reveals an evolutionary cultural misogyny. Survival tactics used by peasants in diseased and violent days included the practice of wet-nursing to supplement meager crop income. Among women of higher rank, an enthusiastic embrace of cloistered life was the only means of personal expression in a repressive world. Well-documented discussion of each era sparkles with legendary names and exploits (Eleanor of Aquitaine, Katherine von Bora, Joan of Arc), made more meaningful to modern readers by showing challenges overcome by historical women. Illustrations not seen by PW. (April)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
Genre: Nonfiction
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