Books By and Featuring the VFA


Some recent publications from our members and friends

Elisabeth Griffith

Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality: 1920-2020

August 2022

On July 16, 1998, Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed an audience of 16,000 gathered at Seneca Falls, N.Y., to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first women’s rights convention. “Imagine, if you will, that you are Charlotte Woodward,” Clinton preached, “a 19-year-old glove maker working and living in Waterloo. Every day you sit for hours sewing … working for small wages you cannot even keep … knowing that if you marry, your children and even the clothes on your body will belong to your husband.” During her speech, Clinton claimed to hear the echoes of her predecessors — Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass — as she gripped a podium not far from the Methodist Chapel where Elizabeth Cady Stanton first demanded voting rights for women to a crowd of 300. The church had since been converted into a laundromat and car dealership, and as Clinton spoke, her husband, then president of the United States, was having a sexual affair with a White House intern. Within months, he would be impeached. Within a decade and a half, Hillary herself would run for president of the most powerful country in the world.

This snapshot illustrates the merits of Elisabeth Griffith’s engaging, relevant and sweeping chronicle of women’s fight for equality in the United States — and by examining 100 years of history through a feminist lens, a pattern emerges: Each blow from the patriarchy is countered by a well-aimed and calculated retaliation from American women.

Books of true feminist history are rare. Rarer still are these histories intersectional; feminist history tends to be synonymous with white women’s history. Not this book. Griffith delivers a multiracial, inclusive timeline of the struggles and triumphs of both Black and white women in America. “Historically, the white press has not covered the activism of Black women,” she writes. (Her previous book centered on the life of Cady Stanton.) Despite difficult-to-find archival sources, Griffith says, “I’ve named as many women as possible.”

A profoundly illuminating tour de force, Griffith’s book begins with Susan B. Anthony and unfolds chronologically, sorted into chapters that track a “pink” timeline of history. “Fifty years ago, when women’s history was struggling for legitimacy in academia,” Griffith explains, “feminists divided American history into ‘blue’ and ‘pink’ timelines. Conference panels debated whether Zachary Taylor’s presidency was more relevant to women’s lives than the invention of the tin can, or whether Jacksonian democracy deserved a chapter when the suffrage campaign did not.”

“Formidable” is organized around major fights: voting rights, working conditions, education access, health care, racial violence, reproductive rights, race and gender discrimination, the wage gap, electoral office. In this immense survey, Griffith is inclined to examine every motivation of her subjects as she unearths long-buried intersectional archives. Most notable is her articulation of the malignant dysfunction as women struggle to find a unified, inclusive path to equality. She is not content to leave out the many moments of white women falling back to self-interested silos. “White women have always been complicit in slavery,” she says.

Griffith excels in examining each feminist cause and its accompanying downsides, starting with the first women’s rights convention, which also initiated the friction between the abolitionists and feminists. “Women are a complex cohort,” she writes. “The drive for women’s rights came from the abolition movement. Enslaved African Americans suffered, struggled and sabotaged the system. A few other Americans sympathized and strategized to abolish it. White women were not exposed to the physical and sexual terror suffered by enslaved women, but their own physical vulnerability and legal subordination prompted comparisons.”

Yes, the suffragists fought for equality, but allegiance with the abolitionists was elusive. “White women wanted the same rights as white men. Black women wanted the same rights as white citizens; theirs was never a women-only movement.” Griffith does not skim over the spots when the suffrage movement splintered. Rather, she understands the assignment: All are invited but no one is off the hook.

There is power in Griffith’s writing — not the style, which is factual and straightforward, but in the cumulative efforts of the hundreds, if not thousands, of characters that she acknowledges. At times, the book’s sheer scope is overwhelming, like listening to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” — a fire hose of information, names and actions, protests and pantsuits. Ida B. Wells and Eleanor Roosevelt. Rosie the Riveter and Rosa Parks. Josephine Baker and Aretha Franklin. Ella Baker and Flo Kennedy. Miss America and the vexation of Phyllis Schlafly. Title VII. The 19th Amendment. Roe v. Wade. Anita Hill and Alix Kates Shulman and Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers Union. Fannie Lou Hamer. Angela Davis and Alicia Garcia. Women’s soccer and the black bra. Patrisse Cullors. Tamika Mallory. Carmen Perez. Linda Sarsour. Bob Bland. The result is a memorial of female freedom fighters, long overdue, and the emergence of a set of instructions for the next generation.

Thus, the reader is carried not by the storyteller but by the tale and takeaway: Success comes not from short manic bursts of effort, but from a constant carrying of the torch. As America descends deeper into paralysis and polarization, Griffith’s subtle and accessible examination shows that victories arise through the miracle of cooperation. Not by factional division but through unity and perseverance. Feminist history is written every day, and Griffith leaves us with the reminder that there is much work to do, as always. That the work for equal rights is more than just hitting “like” on a supportive post, a reactionary retweet, or donning a pink knit hat at the occasional protest. Feminist work must be ongoing and unified, a long and steady lifetime commitment that will continue to propel the movement.

“Formidable” is a shock and a lesson, a reminder that if we want to persevere we must be ready to begin again and again, again and again. The New York Times

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Fran Abrams

I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir

November 2022

I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir is an autobiographical story told in poetry through the eyes of a woman whose life paralleled the second wave of feminism, a movement that began in the 1960’s and focused on equal opportunities and equal pay for women.

The second wave changed the expectations of women from the homemakers of the 1950’s to career women. The author was a freshman in college in 1962 determined to enter the workforce in a professional position. After completing her graduate degree in 1969, she was rebuffed in job interviews by men who assumed she would leave her job soon after she married and had children. She accepted a job in an office where she was the only professional woman. She married in 1970, had her first child in 1976 and her second in 1984. She worked for 41 years, retiring in 2010.

Placing her story in the context of women’s marches and feminist goals, the author tells how she grew up in a world that expected women to become homemakers and how she combined her desire for a professional career with marriage and motherhood at a time when mothers with careers were just starting to be accepted in our culture.

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Dahlia Lithwick

Lady Justice: Women, The Law and the Battle to Save America

September 2022

Heroic feminist attorneys are saluted in this highly readable new book. Its engrossing stories feature trailblazing lawyers such as Anita Hill, Stacey Abrams and Nina Perales. Hill has commented that the author “deftly weaves together the narratives of women lawyers who are holding our legal system accountable for safeguarding an inclusive democracy.”

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Mary Ziegler

Dollars for Life: The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican Establishment

June 2022

The modern Republican Party is the party of conservative Christianity and big business—two things so closely identified with the contemporary GOP that we hardly notice the strangeness of the pairing. Legal historian Mary Ziegler traces how the anti-abortion movement helped to forge and later upend this alliance. Beginning with the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Buckley v. Valeo, right‑to‑lifers fought to gain power in the GOP by changing how campaign spending—and the First Amendment—work. The anti-abortion movement helped to revolutionize the rules of money in U.S. politics and persuaded conservative voters to fixate on the federal courts. Ultimately, the campaign finance landscape that abortion foes created fueled the GOP’s embrace of populism and the rise of Donald Trump. Ziegler offers a surprising new view of the slow drift to extremes in American politics—and explains how it had everything to do with the strange intersection of right-to-life politics and campaign spending.

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Barbara J. Love

There At The Dawning: Memories of a Lesbian Feminist

May 2021

Barbara Love, feminist writer, lesbian activist, editor of Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975, and co-author with Sidney Abbott of Sappho Was a Right-On Woman, shares her personal experiences of being present at the birth of feminism in the 60s and 70s. We learn the stories of the women’s movement and lesbian and gay liberation movement from her first-hand accounts of her front-line troublemaking, risk-taking, and activism. Her brand of inclusive lesbian feminism is irresistible.

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Zeyn Joukhadar

The Thirty Names of Night

November 2020

Joukhadar uses the genre of magical realism to tell us the multi-cultural and multi-generational tale of a closeted Syrian American trans boy, an artist who has not been able to paint since the death of his mother five years before. The only time he feels free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along. The Thirty Names of Night is an imaginative and intimate exploration of how we all search for and ultimately embrace who we are.

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David M. Hamlin

Killer Cocktail

January 2021

Meet Emily Winter. Feminist. Wife. Friend. Trailblazer. Breaker of a glass ceiling as one of the first female broadcast reporters in 1970s Chicago. She’s tough as nails and always manages to be, out of necessity, a step ahead of her male colleagues. She is determined to uncover the next big story in the Windy City and she does. The books in the Emily Winter Mystery Series (authored by David Hamlin) include Winter in Chicago, Winter Gets Hot and the newly released Killer Cocktail.

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Alix Kates Shulman and Honor Moore, co-editors

The new Library of America anthology:

Women’s Liberation!: Feminist Writings Which Inspired a Revolution & Still Can

February 2021

Its 600 pages contain 90 entries, from 1963 (Friedan) to 1991 (Faludi), with 22 pages of photos, including a portrait of Friedan. Naturally, the book (and our Introduction) begins with The Feminine Mystique—the entire opening chapter!  And Betty is a presence throughout the book, as her influence on many of the writers therein is mentioned in our headnotes.

The book was released on Feb 16, 2021 and it has received a splendid review from Publishers Weekly:

Publisher’s Weekly

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Paula G. Cullison

Downloadable Free at PaulaCullison.com

Paula: A Girl from Brooklyn

February 2021

Half the book is focused on Paula’s feminist activities and social activism, which began in the early 70s.


Marilyn Heins, MD

A Traveler’s Guide to Geriatrica

November 2020

How come a retired pediatrician wrote a book on aging? This retired pediatrician became a nonagenarian! Who is this book for? All us Medicare kids, those already dwelling in Geriatrica, new immigrants, children of aging parents, caretakers of the elderly, and any curious young adults who figure they will be old one day.

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Unstoppable: The Nine Lives of Roxanne Barton Conlin

June 2020

Unstoppable is the first in-depth biography of Roxanne Barton Conlin, who rose from a difficult childhood where she faced an abusive father, to become a leading Iowa attorney, feminist, political candidate, and community leader dedicated to fighting for the underdog.

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Lois Kathryn Herr

Women, Power, and AT&T: Winning Rights in the Workplace

March 2020

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) successfully challenged AT&T’s employment practices. This book documents a little-known but important stage in the fight for equal employment opportunity for women and does so with the author’s unique insight gained as a player in the action.

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Riane Eisler

Dear Woman of My Dreams by Riane Eisler

Brilliant Riane Eisler, author of the iconic, The Chalice and the Blade.

Contributor to:
Women of wisdom Empowering the Dreams and Spirit of Women
March, 2017

Women of Wisdom is an inspiring book of spiritual, academic and artistic contributions from professionals and lay people who share their experience of being women and celebrate the power of the feminine spirit.

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Amazon Books
Powell’s Books


Shelah Leader and Patricia Hyatt

American Woman on the Move, The Inside Story of the National Women’s Conference, 1977

Published in 2016, this is the only book specifically written about this historic conference.

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Amazon Books


Janet Allured

Remapping Second Wave Feminism – The Long Women’s Rights Movement in Louisiana, 1950-1997

For those who are interested in the Louisiana Movement, Janet Allured, a professor at McNeese in Lake Charles, Louisiana, has published a history of the Second Wave.

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Amazon Books

Dear Woman of My Dreams by Lois Kathryn HerrLois Kathryn Herr

www.LoisKathrynHerr.com

Dear Woman of My Dreams
May, 2016
Publisher, Xlibris

Dear Woman of My Dreams is Kathryn’s 1923 diary, covering her nineteenth year. This coming-of-age story is told in her own words as she goes about her daily life at college with her friends and with her mother and grandmother at home. She writes to the woman that she sees as herself in later years, and the book closes with a brief chapter based on letters and the diary Kathryn wrote when she was one hundred years old. All this has been creatively edited by her daughter to include enough material for the reader to follow both the cross-country train trip that Kathryn and her grandmother took in the summer of 1923 and the various details of time and place that one would not necessarily find in a diary. Illustrations and references link four generations of strong women, and the work is based on an extensive family archive. This is the first in a series of stories based on the women of this family.

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Amazon Books
Powell’s Books

Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females by Linda SteinLinda Stein

Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females, Tapestries and Sculpture
May 12, 2016
Old City Publishing

Replete with extraordinary full-color images, Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females, Tapestries and Sculpture by Linda Stein, includes a foreword by Gloria Steinem, essays by notable scholars and intimates, as well as the artist, and was published by Old City Publishing. A page-turner, this book tells the story of Stein’s traveling exhibition and educational initiatives, celebrating ten female heroes during the time of the Holocaust. It inspires readers to re-imagine their own roles as Brave Upstanders protecting the well-being of others against bullies and bigots.

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Amazon Books

View Recommended Books 1999 – 2016

Click on button to the right to see a list of VFA recommended books and author pages.

 

View Legacy Books Page