This classic two-volume history is an exciting and revolutionary look at women's history from prehistoric times to the present. Its unique organization focuses on the developments, achievements, and changes in women's roles in society. Rather than examining women's history as an inevitableprogression of events along a strict timeline, this text is organized within a loose chronology, with chapters focusing on women's place and function in society. This revised edition provides a new introduction, an updated epilogue on women's lives in Europe since 1988, and a completely revisedbibliography that includes recent scholarship. A History of Their Own restores women to the historical record, brings their history into focus, and provides models of female action and heroism. Lively and engaging, this new edition takes readers on a fascinating journey through women's history andthe changing roles they have played. In addition it is an ideal text for general courses in women's studies and women's history and more specialized courses focusing on women in European history.Volume One covers women's history from the prehistoric period to the seventeenth century. It includes topics such as the treatment of and attitudes about women during earliest recorded history; the alternating forces of empowerment and subordination imposed on women by ancient religions and theemergence of Christianity; peasant women's daily experiences of childbirth, family life, and field labor; women's religious lives; and the contrast between the lives of noblewomen and the lives of townswomen in early modern Europe.
Why had laws, economic systems, religion, and politics excluded European women from the most valued areas and activities of life? How had cultural attitudes evolved which defined women as innately inferior and placed them in a subordinate relationship to men? (p. xiv)
Volume I provides an in-depth analysis of women in several walks of life: women of the fields, churches, castles and manors, and walled towns. In each case, the authors show how over the centuries women gained power, and were subsequently subordinated to men. Sometimes this occurred as the side effect of some technological advancement that changed the role of women. In other cases their loss of power was the result of deeply held beliefs regarding woman's physical inferiority. In all cases, gender was the single greatest factor affecting the lives of women.
Anderson and Zinsser present a compelling thesis, meticulously researched. At times I felt there was almost too much detail, with so many facts and examples that I wanted to say, "all right already! I get it!" And with so many stories of oppression, this book can be rather depressing. And yet it's important for women to understand their history, and this is a very good way to learn it.