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March 2, 1998

UCSC political scientist teams up with Gloria Steinem on new book about U.S. women's history

New book captures the experience of women in the United States from precolonial times to the present

By Jennifer McNulty

Just in time for Women's History Month, a new book about U.S. women's history is appearing in bookstores.

The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998) is dedicated to capturing the experience of women in the United States from precolonial times to the present. Edited by a five-member team that includes Gloria Steinem and UCSC politics professor Gwendolyn Mink, this landmark book fills a unique niche. Aimed at a general audience, the book is made up of more than 400 articles written by over 300 contributors. The volume is illustrated with 60 photographs.

The book offers insightful commentary on topics as diverse as feminist theology, discrimination, jazz and blues, marriage, widowhood, Native American religions, prohibition, and reproductive rights. Among the contributors are 17 members of the UCSC faculty (see list below).

Steinem hand-picked the team of editors: Dartmouth College history professor Marysa Navarro; Wilma Mankiller, former chief of the Cherokee Nation; writer Barbara Smith; and Mink.

The team was eager to broaden the scope of the role of U.S. women's history to reflect diverse experiences of race, class, and sexuality, said Mink. "It was a unique opportunity, and as far as I know, there's no other book like it," she said.

Wendy Mink

Mink particularly enjoyed giving women who have made history an opportunity to showcase their own ideas, accomplishments, and expertise.

"The book is better because Angela Davis writes on communism, Bettina Aptheker writes about cultural feminism, and Janet Benshoof, who successfully defended abortion rights before the U.S. Supreme Court, writes about reproductive rights," said Mink. "It's great to give such visibility to women who have made history and to women historians who have changed history."

Other contributors include former Congresswoman Bella Abzug, who wrote about the women's economic development organization she founded; Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, who wrote about the history of women and censorship; and legal scholar Catharine A. MacKinnon, who wrote about feminist jurisprudence, a field she helped to define.

UCSC contributors and the articles they authored:

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