Feminism as Life's Work: Four Modern American Women through by Mary K. Trigg

By Mary K. Trigg

With suffrage secured in 1920, feminists confronted the problem of the way to maintain their momentum going. because the middle of the move shrank, a small, self-appointed leading edge of “modern” girls carried the reason ahead in existence and paintings. Feminism as Life’s paintings profiles 4 of those ladies: the writer Inez Haynes Irwin, the historian Mary Ritter Beard, the activist Doris Stevens, and Lorine Pruette, a psychologist. Their life-stories, advised right here in complete for the 1st time, embrace the alterations of the 1st 4 many years of the 20th century—and complicate what we all know of the period.

Through those women’s intertwined tales, Mary Trigg strains the altering nature of the women’s flow throughout turbulent many years hire by way of international warfare, revolution, international melancholy, and the increase of fascism. Criticizing the normal department of feminist activism as a sequence of old waves, Trigg exposes how Irwin, Beard, Stevens, and Pruette helped push the U.S. feminist flow to victory and endured to propel it ahead from the Nineteen Twenties to the Nineteen Sixties, many years now not incorporated within the “wave” version. At a time greatly seen because the “doldrums” of feminism, the ladies during this ebook have been actually taking the reason to new websites: the nationwide Women’s social gathering; sexuality and kin with males; marriage; and paintings and fiscal independence. of their utopian efforts to reshape paintings, sexual kin, and marriage, sleek feminists ran headlong into the cruel realities of male energy, the sexual double average, the calls for of motherhood, and gendered social structures.

In Feminism as Life’s paintings, Irwin, Beard, Stevens, and Pruette come to be the heirs of the suffrage flow, guardians of a protracted feminist culture, and catalysts of the assumption in equality and distinction. Theirs is a narrative of braveness, software, and perseverance—a tale that revisits the “bleak and lonely years” of the U.S. women’s flow and emerges with a clean point of view of the heritage of this pivotal period.

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Her mother, described in her obituary as a woman “nurtured in the old time religion [who] lived the simple and faithful life of a sincere follower of our Lord and Master” was unfulfilled, ambitious, and restless in marriage. While Carrie was practical and exacting, Henry was idealistic, ascetic, and spiritual. Carrie never forgave her husband what she considered his “countless incompetencies”: she scorned his “clean, upright” Christianity, his “almost ridiculous” honesty, his innocence and financial naiveté.

His daughter Mary echoed his reformist sympathies but never shared his attraction to organized religion. When she was young, her father encouraged her to read the Western Christian Advocate on Sundays: “I was more than lukewarm about this matter,” she later exclaimed. ”40 One historian has suggested that Narcissa Lockwood was the model for Beard’s later belief that women play powerful roles in the family and in civilization. The second of three daughters, Beard’s mother came from an old American Protestant family that left Kentucky for Greencastle, Indiana, before the Civil War.

25 Women found more leadership opportunities in the “new” religions of the late nineteenth century, which also influenced young Irwin and her developing ideas. Spiritualism, a movement whose participants believed they could communicate with the dead, peaked in the second half of the century, and women were considered superior mediums. 26 As a teenager, Irwin spent six weeks during the summers of 1889, 1890, and 1891 at a Massachusetts spiritualist community with her aunt. ” She explained: “I listened to teetotalists, spiritualists, atheists, agnostics, theosophists, socialists, anarchists and to a dozen other ists.

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