Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America

Karenna Gore Schiff, Author . Miramax $25.95 (528p) ISBN 978-1-4013-5218-9

Schiff, who is most notably Al Gore's oldest daughter and a lawyer and journalist, has put together a collective biography of nine outstanding American women of the 20th century—some unjustly little known. The more celebrated are Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862–1931), an African-American journalist who brought the horrors of lynching to public attention; Mother Jones (c. 1837–1930), an Irish immigrant and lifelong crusader for workers' rights; and Frances Perkins (1882–1965), the first woman Cabinet member, appointed by FDR. Schiff also illuminates less renowned but highly influential figures, including Alice Hamilton (1869–1970) a physician and pioneer in calling attention to the dangers of industrial poisons, and Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987), child of a former slave, who became a teacher and tireless advocate for racial equality. Several of the subjects are still alive, like Dolores Huerta, cofounder with César Chávez of the United Farm Workers, and Gretchen Buchenholz, who established the Association to Benefit Children. Schiff has done excellent research, and though her prose isn't especially stylish, she shows her heroines as fully rounded figures. She points out, for example, that Wells-Barnett's feud with the NAACP was counterproductive and that Mother Jones's opposition to women's suffrage limited her reach. (Feb. 8)

Reviewed on: 11/14/2005
Release date: 02/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-1-4013-6015-3
Show other formats
Discover what to read next