2021 Outstanding Academic Titles: Women’s Rights

Five selections from the Choice Reviews 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles pertaining to Women’s Rights.

1. Policing the womb: invisible women and the criminalization of mother
Goodwin, Michele. Cambridge, 2020

Goodwin (Univ. of California, Irvine), a legal scholar, masterfully documents the criminalization of women’s reproduction, particularly that of poor women of color. This includes shocking examples of incarcerated women giving birth alone behind bars, pregnant women being charged with attempted feticide and endangerment for falling down stairs or using illicit drugs, forced caesarean sections resulting in death, and contemporary legal maneuvers to prevent women from obtaining abortions. Goodwin makes the case that laws, policies, and practices meant to “protect” fetuses are actually measures by the state to control the lives and bodies of women. Moreover, they are more likely to result in worse health outcomes for women and children. By examining attempts to regulate the behavior of pregnant women, Goodwin reveals the racism, classism, and misogyny that underlies many of these laws. View on Amazon.

2. Votes for women!: the American woman suffrage movement and the Nineteenth Amendment: a reference guide
Roydhouse, Marion W. ABC-CLIO, 2020

The latest in the “Guides to Historic Events in America” series, this book by Roydhouse (emer., Philadelphia Univ.) is a thoroughly researched, all-in-one reference guide containing both primary and secondary sources on the US suffrage movement. The book contains an impressive breadth and depth of content including chronological textbook chapters, biographical essays, speeches, court proceedings, newspaper editorials, and a robust bibliography. Roydhouse adeptly navigates the intersections of abolition and regionalism on the path toward the 19th Amendment, specifically in exploring southern identity and westward expansion. However more attention could have been paid to non-white and non-majority experiences. This is an exhaustively researched reference for use by those studying the suffrage movement, women’s organizing and reform, and the sociopolitical history of US womanhood, and could be employed as both an introductory text and a resource for in-depth research, particularly among undergraduates. View on Amazon

3. The movement for reproductive justice: empowering women of color through social activism
Zavella, Patricia. New York University, 2020

Intersectionality is a popular concept, but this terrific study of the practical uses of an intersectional approach to organizing for social change goes far beyond the usual invocations of the term, actually illuminating its strengths and challenges. Reproductive justice is a term born of the mobilizations contesting the applicability of the “choice” framework in reproductive rights advocacy when addressing the ability of marginalized women to mother in freedom and safety. Zavella (emer., Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) does not see movements as strings of protest events, but work done at and above the grassroots level to create coalitions and identities that bridge diversities of interests and work across multiple issues. This study of a dozen racially specific organizations in the movement stresses the struggle to commit to a “woman of color” perspective that goes beyond both individual and group identities; includes men and white women in the work; and builds organizing skills, especially among youth, for realizing collective empowerment. Intersectionality as a practice is revealed as a set of skills and deliberate movement strategies for shifting culture, producing long-term organizers, and building communities of mutual aid. View on Amazon.

4. Older women who work: resilience, choice, and change
ed. by Ellen Cole and Lisa Hollis-Sawyer American Psychological Association, 2020

Older Women Who Work: Resilience, Choice, and Change, edited by Cole (Russell Sage College) and Hollis-Sawyer (Northeastern Illinois Univ.), is an engaging feminist collection of studies on an increasingly important sector of the worldwide workforce. Contributed chapters focus on broad themes, including life-span development, economics, poverty, resilience, and sexism and ageism, rather than specific career paths, but some chapters do focus on specific groups, e.g., older Appalachian, Canadian, and immigrant women. The collection is divided into three parts: “Personal and Career Identities for Older Women” (part 1); “Societal Roles of Aging Women Workers” (part 2); and “Diversity and Personal Grit in the Workplace and Beyond” (part 3). The essays feature both experiences of individual women and aggregate data on particular workforce sectors. The book is part of the publisher’s “Psychology of Women Book Series,” with a series foreword by Mary Wyer, who laments that issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic could not be included because of publication timing. Yet the editors’ introduction provides contextualizing remarks. The book also includes an appendix, “Employment Resources for Older Women.” An introduction is provided for each part of the book, including a separate list of references. View on Amazon.

5. A miscarriage of justice: women’s reproductive lives and the law in early twentieth-century Brazil
Roth, Cassia. Stanford, 2020

A Miscarriage of Justice is an impeccably researched feminist history of reproduction that centers the lives and deaths of women in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro during the early 20th century. As Roth (Univ. of Georgia) shows, this was a momentous time in Brazil’s history with the abolition of slavery in 1888 and establishment of the first republic immediately following in 1889. Within this context, physicians, lawmakers, and politicians saw heightened value in women’s reproduction vis-à-vis the Brazilian state, since women had the ability to conceive and birth future citizens and laborers, but also held the power to refuse. The result was a parallel medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth and expansion of surveillance and criminalization of abortion and infanticide. Whereas previous studies tend to discuss maternal and infant health independent of fertility control, Roth convincingly demonstrates how interconnected these two spheres were for understanding women’s relationship with the state. By employing an integrated methodology, she carefully analyzes how women negotiated these state interventions in their reproduction. View on Amazon.

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