This week's review analyzes what it means to be a woman in the United States, unpacking the ways social and political events impact how womanhood is defined.

Woman: The American History of an Idea

Faderman, Lillian. Yale, 2022
600p bibl index, 9780300249903 $32.50, 9780300271140 $25.00

Woman: The American History of an Idea book cover.

Faderman (emer., California State Univ., Fresno), a renowned scholar of gender and sexuality, has crafted a detailed, fascinating discussion of the social, legal, and political meanings of the term woman in the US. Her analysis spans the arrival of the first white settlers in the early 1600s to the election of Kamala Harris as the nation’s first female and first person of color vice president. Faderman deftly unpacks what being a woman means through the lens of multiple races and ethnicities. She also carefully discusses the impact of various external factors and events—e.g., slavery and its demise, the rise of the industrial revolution in the 19th century and the economic devastation of the Great Depression, and two world wars—and closely examines changes over time regarding notions of sexual identity and “acceptable” mores. With more than 100 pages of citations, including both primary and secondary sources, this comprehensive examination is an ideal text for advanced courses in US women’s history. In the end, it might seem that the more things change, the more they remain the same, but Faderman leaves readers with hope for the future.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.
K. B. Nutter, formerly, Smith College
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Women’s & Gender Studies, Racial Justice
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences
Choice Issue: Jun 2023

Enjoy this week’s review? Check out more reviews of related titles: