1st Edition

Rethinking American Women's Activism

ISBN 9780415811736
Published September 26, 2014 by Routledge
244 Pages

USD $49.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

In this enthralling narrative, Annelise Orleck chronicles the history of the American women's movement from the nineteenth century to the present. Starting with an incisive introduction that calls for a reconceptualization of American feminist history to encompass multiple streams of women's activism, she weaves the personal with the political, vividly evoking the events and people who participated in our era's most far-reaching social revolutions.

In short, thematic chapters, Orleck enables readers to understand the impact of women's activism, and highlights how feminism has flourished through much of the past century within social movements that have too often been treated as completely separate. Showing that women’s activism has taken many forms, has intersected with issues of class and race, and has continued during periods of backlash, Rethinking American Women’s Activism is a perfect introduction to the subject for anyone interested in women’s history and social movements.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Reflecting on the Wave Metaphor and the Myth of Monolithic Feminism

Chapter 1: Rethinking the So-Called First Wave - An Extremely Brief History of Women's Rights Activism in the U.S. Before 1920

Chapter 2: Civil Rights, Labor Feminism, and Mother Activism from 1920 through the 1940s

Chapter 3: Varieties of Feminism in a Conservative Age

Chapter 4: Equality NOW! - Feminism and the Law

Chapter 5: Raising Consciousness, Venting Anger, Finding Sisterhood: "The Revolution is WHat is Happening in Every Woman's Mind"

Chapter 6: Women's Movements for Redistributive and Social Justice: Other Faces of Radical Feminism

Chapter 7: Lesbian Lives, Lesbian Rights, Lesbian Feminism

Chapter 8: Anti-Feminist Backlash and Feminism Reborn: The 1970s through 2013

View More



Annelise Orleck is Professor of History at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Common Sense and a Little Fire: Women and Working Class Politics in the United States, 1900-1965 and Storming Caesar’s Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty.


*A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title of 2015*

"Orleck here produces an extremely engaging history of the US women’s movement from its 19th-century roots to the present...Orleck’s emphasis on varieties of feminism—labor, civil rights, mother, radical, lesbian—makes this highly readable book especially useful for academics as well as a pleasure for general readers. Summing Up: Essential."

C. E. Neumann, Miami University, CHOICE Review

"A master historian has put her mind to a seemingly difficult task--capturing the many-splendored aspects of America's women's movements in one place--and makes it look easy.  This smart, insightful and beautifully written book tells a story every American should know."

Linda Gordon, author of The Moral Property of Women: The History of Birth Control Politics in America

"Annelise Orleck shatters conventional understandings of women's activism. She has exposed the long and difficult struggle for social justice, highlighting the troughs as well as the peaks, reminding us just how necessary but fragile coalitional politics can be."

Eileen Boris, co-author of Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State

"In this vivid tapestry, Orleck explores women’s multifaceted movements for gender, racial, class and sexual justice across the long twentieth century. Analyzing intertwined struggles for civil rights, labor reform, lesbian rights, women’s liberation, Riot Grrrls and more, she dramatically recasts our understandings of social change and of feminism/s."

Nancy A. Hewitt, editor of No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism

"Rethinking American Women's Activism is an engaging read, animated by dramatic anecdotes, unexpected moments of change and colorful characters. It delivers in demonstrating that women have consistently fought for social justice through explicitly feminist and other channels."

Katherine Turk, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill