Category Book Reviews

The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe

Product DetailsThe Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe
By Elaine Showalter
Simon and Schuster
Retail Price:  $28.00
Amazon Price: $18.78

Book Description:  The first full biography of Julia Ward Howe—the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and an early and powerful feminist pioneer—a groundbreaking figure in the abolitionist and suffrage movements.

Julia Ward (1819–1910) was a heiress and aspiring poet when she married Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, an internationally-acclaimed pioneer in the education of the blind. Together the Howes knew many of the key figures of their era, from Charles Dickens to John Brown. But he also wasted her inheritance, isolated and discouraged her, and opposed her literary ambitions. Julia persisted, and continued to publish poems and plays while raising six children.

Authorship of the Battle Hymn of the Republic made her celebrated and revered. But Julia was also continuing to fight a civil war at home; she became a pacifist, suffragist, and world traveler. She came into her own as a tireless campaigner for women’s rights and social reform. Esteemed author Elaine Showalter tells the story of Howe’s determined self-creation and brings to life the society she inhabited and the obstacles she overcame.

Review

This is an excellent biography of Julia Ward Howe.  In case you are unsure of who Ms. Howe is, she is the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which first appeared in the February, 1862, issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine and was considered by many as the Civil War’s battle song of the Republic.   While this hymn was her claim to fame, Ms. Showalter gives us a complete look at Howe’s life from birth in 1819 to her spiritual re-birth and her death in 1910.  The book covers her early years and young adult years well, but goes more in depth regarding her courtship with Samuel Howe and her married life.  Julia really came into her own in midlife and beyond, where she laid the foundations for her legacy of civil rights support.   She was really an amazing woman who was a was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, and poet.   This book gives you an intimate glimpse into her life and work. It is a must read for all you lovers of women’s history!

 

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    The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement

    The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's MovementThe Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement
    by Laura Swan
    BlueBridge
    Retail Price $13.56
    Amazon Price: $13.56

    Book Description: 

    The beguines began to form in various parts of Europe over eight hundred years ago, around the year 1200. Beguines were laywomen, not nuns, and thus did not take solemn vows and did not live in monasteries. The beguines were a phenomenal movement that swept across Europe yet they were never a religious order or a formalized movement. But there were common elements that rendered these women distinctive and familiar, including their common way of life, their unusual business acumen, and their commitment to the poor and marginalized. These women were essentially self-defined, in opposition to the many attempts to control and define them. They lived by themselves or together in so-called beguinages, which could be single houses for as few as a handful of beguines or, as in Brugge and Amsterdam, walled-in rows of houses (enclosing a central court with a chapel) where over a thousand beguines might live—a village of women within a medieval town or city. And each region of Europe has its own beguine stories to tell.Among the beguines were celebrated spiritual writers and mystics, including Mechthild of Magdeburg, Beatrijs of Nazareth, Hadewijch of Brabant, and Marguerite Porete, who was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake in Paris in 1310. She was not the only beguine suspected of heresy, and often politics were the driving force behind such charges. Certain clerics defended beguines against charges of heresy, while other women had to go undercover by joining a Benedictine or Cistercian monastery.Amazingly, many beguine communities survived for a long time despite oppression, wars, the plague, and other human and natural disasters. Beguines lived through—and helped propel—times of great transition and reform. Beguines courageously spoke to power and corruption, never despairing of God’s compassion for humanity. They used their business acumen to establish and support ministries that extended education, health care, and other social services to the vulnerable. And they preached and taught of a loving God who desired a relationship with each individual person while calling to reform those who used God’s name for personal gain.

    What strength of spirit protected the lives of these women and their beguinages? What can we learn from them? What might they teach us? The beguines have much to say to our world today. This book invites us to listen to their voices, to discover them anew.

    Reviews

    When I first received this book for review, it really piqued my interest.  I had never even heard of the Beguines before and I really wanted to find out what these ladies were all about.  Author Laura Swan did a fantastic job of researching and relaying their story in a very readable fashion.At the start of the 12th century, some women in Europe lived alone and devoted themselves to prayer and good works without taking vows. At first there were only a few of them, but in the course of the century, their numbers increased. These women lived in towns, where they attended to the poor. During the 13th century, some of them bought homes that neighbored each other, and finally formal living spaces for many women formed a community called a béguinage. Beguinages tended to be located near town centers and were often close to the rivers that provided water for their work in the cloth industry in the Low Countries.

    Beguines were not nuns; they did not take vows, could return to the world and wed if they chose and did not renounce their property. If one was without means, she neither asked nor accepted alms but supported herself by manual labor or by teaching.  Beguinages were not convents. There was no overarching structure and each beguinage adopted its own rule.

    This book brings to our attention a movement of women who wanted to make an difference in their sphere of influence in the Middle Ages.  It was truly inspirational!

    ~Reviewed by Allie B.

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      The Wrong Enemy

      The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014The Wrong Enemy
      By Carlotta Gall
      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
      Retail Price:  $28.00
      Amazon Price:  15.12

      Book Description:  Carlotta Gall has reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for almost the entire duration of the American invasion and occupation, beginning shortly after 9/11. She knows just how much this war has cost the Afghan people, and how much damage can be traced to Pakistan and its duplicitous government and intelligence forces. Now that American troops are withdrawing, it is time to tell the full history of how we have been fighting the wrong enemy, in the wrong country.Gall combines searing personal accounts of battles and betrayals with moving portraits of the ordinary Afghanis who endured a terrible war of more than a decade. Her firsthand accounts of Taliban warlords, Pakistani intelligence thugs, American generals, Afghani politicians, and the many innocents who were caught up in this long war are riveting.  Her evidence that Pakistan fueled the Taliban and protected Osama bin Laden is revelatory. This is a sweeping account of a war brought by well-intentioned American leaders against an enemy they barely understood, and could not truly engage.

      Review

      This book is really about history in the making.  I am posting it on History’s Women, because I believe that  the author, Carlotta Gall, a journalist stationed in Afghanistan for nearly14 years, is a courageous women who is speaking the truth, even if it is difficult to hear.  She is a reformer at heart and is using her experiences in Afghanistan to help us understand what truly when on across the globe during the 13 years of war.

      Reading this book is like watching a documentary film on the area and the people.  She writes in such a way that you feel as if you are walking the dusty roads with her.  Gall helps us face the hard facts of the war in Afghansitan including divulging shocking evidence that doesn’t put the U.S. Government in the best light.  I give her credit for having the courage to tell it like she saw it, no holds-barred.  This book will shock you, enlighten you, and give you compassion for our soldiers who were fighting a war so far from home for so many years.

      Giveaway

      If you would like a chance to win a free copy of this book email us by the end of the month.  Be sure to include the name of the book in the body of the email along with your name and address

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        Thank You, Sisters

        Thank You, Sisters: Stories of Women Religious and How They Enrich Our Lives

        Thank You, Sisters
        By John Feister
        Franciscan Media
        Retail Price $14.99
        Amazon Price: $12.48

        Book Description: 

        Since the April 2012 announcement of the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, there has been considerable media attention focused on Catholic Sisters.

        The first report, and the consequent naming of bishop-oversight and guidance of LCWR for the next five years, has resulted in an outcry of support for U.S. religious sisters from much of the Church, and a concurrent outcry of support for the Holy See and criticism of sisters from other parts of the Church. There has not been much reliable analysis of this reaction yet: Is it liberal-conservative? Young or old? Neither is the point of this book.

        Thank You, Sisters highlights the positive impact that sisters have had on a cross-section of Catholics. It steps back from finger-pointing and position-taking and simply tells inspiring, true stories of Sisters and the people they have influenced. The book shows the effect religious women have had not only on the U.S. Catholic Church, but on the nation as a whole, in areas such as health care, education, social justice, and pastoral ministry.

        The contributors to this book are prominent Catholics who write from a wide range of experience. They include:

        • James Martin, S.J.
        • Cokie Roberts
        • Mary Fishman— producer of Band of Sisters
        • Adriana Trigiani
        • Binka Le Breton, on Amazon martyr Sister Dorothy Stang
        • Maureen Orth
        • Liz Scott, on Sr. Helen Prejean
        • Teresa Gardner and Sr. Chris Kenney
        • Maurice Nutt, C.S.S.R. on Sr. Thea Bowman
        • Teresa Wilson on Sr. Joan Chittister
        • Dan Horan, O.F.M.

        Review

        Written in simple to understand language, this book takes a look at women’s history from the perspective of Catholic Sisters and their contributions to society. Many of the Sisters in the book have been social activists, helping to feed the hungry and provide health care to the poor.  Some of the sisters were political activists, fighting for the rights of the those who could not fight themselves.  The work they have done has often been overlooked, but this book seeks to right that wrong and pay tribute to this group of women who are truly an inspiration.

        ~Reviewed by Fran O.

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          Women of Vision

          Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on AssignmentWomen of Vision
          By Chris Johns
          National Geographic
          Retail Price $30.00
          Amazon Price: $21.68

          Book Description: 

          Women photographers have produced many of National Geographic’s most powerful photo-narratives of the past decade. These talented photojournalists are celebrated in this captivating photography book, covering places and subjects around the globe and sharing the same passion and commitment to storytelling that has come to define National Geographic magazine, with more than 31 million readers worldwide.

          Women of Vision
          is a tribute to the spirit and the ambition of these journalists and artists who have created riveting, visual experiences through the insightful, sensitive, and strategic use of a camera. With an introduction by Chris Johns, editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine, and a thoughtful foreword by acclaimed journalist Ann Curry, this book presents both personal reflections and stunning selections of photographic assignment work from the past decade, setting a new standard for excellence that will continue to inspire for decades to come.

          From the elegant landscapes of the Mongolian steppes to the war-torn battlefields of Iraq; from the last great wildernesses of Africa to the flash and tumult of the Jersey Shore, these stories explore the realities of our world and the depths of what it means to be human in the 21st century.

          Review

          Photojournalists often tell the untold stories, that behind the scenes that words can’t even begin to describe.  They show us that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words!  While this makes a great coffee table book, it is so much more.  While the photographs are stunning, they are accompanied by comprehensive biographies of each of the photographers, each of which are very intriguing.  While it used to be a man’s world, National Geographic is showing us that this world is opened up to women and that women are excelling in the field.

          ~Reviewed by Allie B.

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