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In this definitive volume, respected historian Christine Stansell tells the story of one of the great democratic movements of our times. She paints richly detailed portraits of well-known leaders—Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Betty Friedan—but others, too, appear in a new light, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Toni Morrison. Accounting for the failures of feminism as well as the successes, Stansell notes the emergence in the early 1900s of the dashing “New Woman”; the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote; the post–World War II collapse of suburban neo-Victorianism; the radical feminism of the 1960s; and the fight for women’s rights in developing countries in the era of international feminist movements. A soaring work, The Feminist Promise is bound to become an authoritative source on this essential subject for decades to come.
“A landmark book from a brilliant and insightful historian. Stansell brings pioneering feminist thinkers like Mary Wollstonecraft thrillingly alive and places contemporary American women activists in the contexts of two centuries of feminist argument. Assured, ambitious, and stirring, The Feminist Promise delivers the authoritative intellectual history needed to ground and launch a new era of global women's emancipation.”
-- Elaine Showalter, Professor Emeritus of English, Princeton University, and author of A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx
“Christine Stansell’s The Feminist Promise is a landmark in women’s history – a remarkable and thoughtful narrative of the many movements and struggles that have shaped the lives of American women (and men) over two centuries and into our own time. “
--Alan Brinkley, Allan Nevins Professor of American History, Columbia University
“Never before has the whole scope and breadth of feminism's democratic promise been so arrestingly and memorably surveyed. Stansell unifies the long history of fractious and unruly generations of feminist endeavor with precise arrows of insight and luminous reflections. Her book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the situation of women in the world today.”
-- Nancy F. Cott, Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History, Harvard University, and author of The Grounding of Modern Feminism
“Stansell explodes popular ideas about the women’s movement with a history that shows its complexity, and the massive internal and external obstacles women are still trying to overcome.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“A unique, elegant, learned sweep through more than two centuries of women’s efforts to overcome the most fundamental way that human beings have been wrongly divided into the leaders and the led. It’s full of surprises from the past and guiding lights for the future.” —Gloria Steinem
“Thrilling . . . a bold, brimming history . . . reminiscent of The Second Sex in its elegant gallop through centuries and cultures.” —The Texas Observer
“Magisterial . . . [This book] will be a benchmark.”—The Nation
“It is with an evocative, even poetic sense of saga that Christine Stansell infuses this epic work, a heart-moving journey over the last three centuries. Drawing distinctions between the "mothers" and the "daughters" of the feminist movement, Stansell gives fresh clarity and nostalgic immediacy to the breakneck pace with which women have changed their lives. This is to feminism the definitive account--the motherlode."
-- Sheila Weller, author of the The New York Times bestseller Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — And the Journey of a Generation
“It's all here -- over two hundred years of history, down to the perplexities of the present day, in which a feminist might be an Afghan teenager fighting for an education, or an American lawyer wondering how she ended up as a stay-home mother. The Feminist Promise is women's history for the 21st century -- a magnificent and compelling work.”
--Katha Pollitt, author of The Mind-Body Problem