Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Women’s History Month Part 1

This week we highlight the first installment of 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles selected to commemorate Women's History Month

1. The Woman’s Tribune
Accessible Archives, Inc., 2021

The Woman’s Tribune provides full-text access (in both digitized and text formats) to the [full run of the] biweekly newspaper of the same name published between 1883 and 1909,” which “was the second-longest-running women’s suffrage newspaper in the US,” as Erica Swenson Danowitz wrote for ccAdvisor. With content spanning “advertisements, book reviews, domestic news stories, editorials, poetry, recipes, and international coverage of suffragist issues … [t]his resource [will support] the research needs of faculty, advanced undergraduates, and graduate students,” particularly those researching American or international suffragist movements.

Mirroring other Accessible Archives products, the user interface is straightforward and easy to navigate, though occasional challenges with searching may arise, stemming from the current indexing. Search features include “facets that allow narrowing results by publication date, publication type, or particular collections, if available,” as well as truncation, wildcard, and proximity searching. “Users can also browse the entire contents of an issue,” Danowitz noted, adding that, once retrieved, “results also include a Keywords in Context link that allows finding the exact locations of searched text in documents.”

2. The Routledge companion to Black women’s cultural histories
ed. by Janell Hobson Routledge, 2021

Over the past five decades, several important works have been published on various aspects of Black women’s history, including Are All the Women Still White?: Rethinking Race, Expanding Feminisms (CH, Apr’17, 54-4030), also edited by Hobson (Univ. at Albany, SUNY), and Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies (CH, Aug’10, 47-7179), edited by Frances Smith Foster, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, and Stanlie M. James. However, the work under review attempts a more comprehensive study in terms of time and place, covering ancient eras up to the present in locales across four continents. Black feminist theory, as well as some queer theory, is woven through the 35 relatively short essays, presented in five parts with a generally thematic and chronological arrangement. The international, interdisciplinary contributors tackle topics as disparate as ancient Egypt, the kingdom of Kush, the Haitian Revolution, abolition, anti-colonialism, 20th-century and present day political and literary movements, and much more. There are several illustrations, but unfortunately their placement is uneven among the chapters. This important, impeccably written and edited work collocates diverse views and subjects within Black women’s studies and will undoubtedly be a point of reference for decades to come. View on Amazon

3. Unbinding gentility: women making music in the nineteenth-century South
Bailey, Candace. Illinois, 2021

This is a fascinating exploration of musical repertoire salon culture of the southern US during the 19th century. The South’s demographic encompassed people from social strata defined by wealth, race, ethnicity, and lineage. Although literary traditions appealed across population groups at this time, Bailey’s exploration of musical repertoire confirms the ubiquitous home music parlor as the physical site of a distinctly feminine sphere of cultural influence. Appointed with piano and fashionable décor, the parlor both affirmed and promised the rewards of high social status through the genteel manners of musical performance. Bailey (North Carolina Central Univ.) brings a keen analytical eye to the repertoire performed, focusing on sheet music and other manuscripts bound into a volume for prominent display on pianos. These binders were prized artifacts of intellectual and artistic accomplishment, reflections of their female host’s membership (or aspirations to membership) in the cultural elite. That Bailey’s extensive research included Black women and women of lower social classes in these salon practices is commendable. Parsing the spectrum from amateur to professional musician, the author threads the practice of sacralizing concert music tradition through southern homes of all kinds. View on Amazon

4. Comic book women: characters, creators, and culture in the Golden Age
Peyton, Brunet. by Peyton Brunet and Blair Davis Texas, 2022

This study of female characters and women creators of comics explores the integral role that women played in the growth of comics during the Golden Age of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Comic historians have ignored the role of women as writers, artists, and editors in these early years, so this book is particularly welcome. Often drawing on interviews, Brunet and Davis (both associated with DePaul Univ.) give a voice to pioneers, e.g., Lily Renée and June Tarpé Mills, who grappled with deep industrial sexism while developing female characters. They also revive long-forgotten characters such as Sally the Sleuth, Millie the Model, and Two-Gun Lil. The authors consider how Western, crime, horror, superhero, jungle, and science fiction comics challenged gender stereotypes. In comics, the women who owned ranches and protected towns regularly challenged gender stereotypes of the Western genre in ways that women in other media rarely did. Women of color are noticeably absent from these tales, as all genres of comics except for jungle comics focused on white women. However, Black children reading jungle comics internalized a vision of themselves steeped in white supremacist thought. The depth and breadth of this heavily illustrated book is stunning. This is a groundbreaking contribution to the field. View on Amazon

5Transforming girls: the work of nineteenth-century adolescence
Pfeiffer, Julie. University Press of Mississippi, 2021

Pfeiffer’s Transforming Girls is a much-needed addition to scholarship on girls’ literature, providing a fresh perspective on several fronts. First, Pfeiffer (Hollins Univ.; editor of the annual Children’s Literature) shows that the concept of adolescence and adolescent literature for girls emerged just before the end of the 19th century, which predates the more commonly held dating. Second, she examines the strong literary and social ties between the US and Germany before WW I, ties more pronounced than the Anglo-American relationship of later years. From this enlightening discussion emerges the primary value of this book, which is Pfeiffer’s examination of the positive adolescent female development story highlighted in Backfischliteratur, a genre of girls’ literature that focuses on the backfisch (adolescent, immature girl) and emphasizes the protagonist’s nurturing by older women who mentor her on her journey toward womanhood. This contrasts with later girls’ novels that feature girls enacting the volatile (and more sexualized) “storm and stress” trope of adolescence that G. Stanley Hall, often considered the founder of child psychology, defined in his book Adolescence (1904). Pfeiffer provides excellent resources and in-depth analysis of eight novels, both German and American, of this little-known, understudied genre, making this book a vital addition to the study of girls’ literature. View on Amazon

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