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Amazing American Women: 40 Fascinating 5-Minute Reads, by Kendall Haven

posted Feb 25, 2010, 1:57 PM by Christine Merrill
I pick books by randomly wandering an isle of the library and grabbing a few that look interesting, then going home and seeing if they really are interesting.  This time, my pick was luckier than usual, interesting AND inspiring.  I picked it because it had short stories - that works well for a mother snatching moments with a book when she can.  I'd heard of many of the people in the book before:  Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Annie Sullivan.  Some were less familiar.  These are not biographies of the women - they are stories of a single experience, told by a true story teller.

I started with a story of a slave woman who in 1781 served in the house where the Massachusetts constitution was written.  Upon hearing the words "all men are born free and equal" in the constitution, she walked to a lawyer and demanded her freedom.  Amazingly, the lawyer represented her, and she did win her freedom, and was immediately hired by the lawyer who had been so impressed with the intelligence of Elizabeth Freeman.

Amelia Bloomer had a fascinating story about standing up for women's rights by renouncing the corset.  (Have you heard of bloomers?) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, though disowned by her father, wrote a document calling for women to have the vote.  Sojourner Truth, like Elizabeth Freeman, appeared in court to have her free-born son returned to her from slavery, though her life was in danger.  Jane Addams was the originator of social work in America.  The list goes on...

I am not impressed by these women because of what they did - I am impressed because of what they stood for.  I am impressed by their integrity and courage.  I wonder, what do I stand for today?  How can someone follow their example when the battles have already been won?  (Side note:  the purpose of this review is NOT to start a debate about the current status of women.  Suffice it to say that I am content with our current position.)  But, there are things that are wrong in the world.  There are people being hurt by laws and social customs that teach them to do things that will never make them happy.  I am inspired by these women's stories to stand a little taller in defending a woman's right to raise a family, to fight against pornography, violence, and other things that ruin families and lives.  I am inspired to be more vocal and less passive.  I can say and do things that are not popular, but are right.  I can be a light.
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