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Women's Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present Hardcover – Sep 27 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (Sept. 27 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385335539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385335539
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 5 x 24 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,228,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In Letters of the Century, Grunwald and Adler offered an epistolary romp through American life in the 20th century. Now the husband-and-wife duo turn their considerable talents to the letters of American women. Some of the letters capture grand historical events—e.g., Abigail Adams gushing to husband John about a July 1776 public reading of the Declaration of Independence. At the other end of the timeline are a handful of letters written on or shortly after 9/11. But many letters dwell on the everyday—sickness, loneliness, childrearing. Some of the letters are by obscure women, and some—such as a February 1861 note from "A Lady" warning Abraham Lincoln of a rumored assassination plot—are anonymous. As the editors note, for most of our history, "women simply had no public forum.... Letters... were among their only outlets for recording what they saw, and how they felt...." This is a delightful collection of belles letters in the most literal sense of the term, and a worthy successor to the editors' previous volume.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This collection of more than 400 entries begins with a letter written by Abigail Grant, accusing her husband of cowardice in battle, and ends with an e-mail by Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi on the stark state of affairs in war-torn Iraq. In between, a wide variety of compelling subjects is covered. The letter Amelia Earhart presented to her husband on their wedding day detailing her terms for the marriage is included as are the send-a-dime chain letter sent more than a billion times during the Depression and a letter addressed to Michael Powell, head of the Federal Communications Commission, complaining about the winner of Fox Network's 2003 American Idol competition. The book is divided by time period, and each section is illustrated with black-and-white graphics representative of the age. The letters are accompanied by information about the topics included, biographical details about the author and the recipient, and other interesting facts.–Debra Shumate, Bull Run Regional Library, Manassas, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0xb44effcc) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
95 of 98 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8568a98) out of 5 stars A social history shaped through the correspondence of women Oct. 5 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler, the powerhouse couple behind LETTERS OF THE CENTURY --- and now WOMEN'S LETTERS --- make history both accessible and captivating, presenting it in the format of correspondences written throughout our nation's history. With this epistolary approach Grunwald and Adler illuminate the events that molded and defined America.

LETTERS OF THE CENTURY looked at the writings of men and women over the course of a century. With WOMEN'S LETTERS, the editors have narrowed their focus and broadened their time frame, but by no means have they restricted their scope. Indeed, by presenting letters written solely by women --- to their sisters, their husbands, their friends and lovers --- Grunwald and Adler have only heightened the impact of their detailed and meticulous presentation of history.

In school we are forced to memorize the "dates, monarchs, generals and macro issues" and thus we associate history with a kind of teeth-grinding tedium and exam-related anxiety. History can be overwhelming and alienating --- much of what we learn about the rise and fall of civilizations, the birth and growth of nations, felt utterly separate and un-relatable when we were in school, and that feeling of being divided from our nation's past has endured. By drawing us into the minutiae, WOMEN'S LETTERS renders the "macro issues" both lucid and graspable. There is something deeply revelatory and ultimately reassuring about this conception of a past.

Beginning in 1775 and ending in 2005, the letters collected in this volume deal with themes that are vastly different and yet transcendent. They are snapshots of the lives of women from a wide range of educations, experiences, racial and economic backgrounds. From Martha Washington to Anais Nin to Betty Freidan, these letters reveal much about women we have heard about, women we thought we knew, and women whose voices resound and defy their obscurity. Every one of these women has something to say. The letters bring them together, revealing the themes that run parallel in their lives.

Loneliness, anger, loss, birth, death --- all these concepts pulse through the 760 pages of WOMEN'S LETTERS, and they are still deeply relevant today. This rich stew of transcendent ideas and inevitable truths in the lives of women serves both to link the singular letter writers revealed within these pages and establish a common ground with each individual reader. We all will find something that resonates deep within us in these pages --- some sentiment that sings.

Those who loathe the study of history with facts and data will appreciate this work. It reminded this reviewer of a line from the historical fiction novelist Jacqueline Winspear, who said, "I have always been far more interested in social history, the details of how ordinary people lived, how they were impacted by the events of the time...I could easily sleep through a whole lesson on the parliamentary acts of Elizabeth I, but tell me that her teeth were completely black and I'm listening." It is the minute details, the very specific individual experience, that these letters portray. The resulting work is authoritative, but not textbook.

WOMEN'S LETTERS is not a "women's book" and it should not be thought of as such. Indeed it is crucially important for men to dip into these pages as well and glimpse lives that unfolded in drawing rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and behind closed doors. Men and women equally will find inspiration in the words of these women that for so long went unheard.

The elocution and attention to detail, form and grace that typify so many of the letters written before the mid-20th century bespeak the very lack of those qualities in contemporary correspondence. As technical advancements propel us to a kind of hyper-efficiency, we have lost the need to devote time and craft to communication. The actual implications of the phrase "letter-writing is a lost art" can only be fully examined when we are aware just how artful the creation of a letter can be. WOMEN'S LETTERS demands that its readers question just what we have given up in exchange for that efficiency.

And when readers do flip through the last 80 or so pages, dated 1980-2005, they will be jarred not just by the dominating artlessness that has overtaken the form, but by the relative loss of humanity these letters depict. Where the letters of the preceding pages established humanity on a grand scale, with a few notable exceptions, these last pages of letters searingly depict a growing trend of inhumanity. From the plaintive words of Nicole Brown Simpson writing to her husband to the rage-fueled preaching of an abortion clinic bomber writing to the Pensacola News, there is something deeply unsettling about such a stark display of human frailty. These last few pages beg the question: What have we, as a nation and as a people, lost as we have stopped writing?

The question may sound dire, but the conversation that can follow it is a vital one. It is a multi-ethnic, multi-gendered, all-encompassing conversation that should be had among parents and children, among friends and across the dinner table. Grunwald and Adler have tapped a well-spring of potential dialogue and their collection is a mighty conversation-starter. And despite its physical and intellectual weight, it is a breathtakingly easy read. A book that is meant to be dipped into, at random perhaps, savored for an hour, an afternoon, alone or read aloud --- it demands no rigorous examination; the potency of the words on the page are not dependent on the fashion by which they are read.

WOMEN'S LETTERS does more than just reveal the blackened teeth; it looks deep under the skin and into the minds of the women who quietly --- and not so quietly --- shaped and were shaped by our nation's history.

--- Reviewed by Jennifer Krieger
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8568aec) out of 5 stars Seeing history from an amazing perspective April 21 2006
By MLPlayfair - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Reading someone else's old letters can evoke universal feelings and can even bring to life a time before we were born. This is what happens in "Women's Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present," edited by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler. In more than 800 pages, the editors compiled women's letters from 1775 up to and including the current war in Iraq. The letter writers include slave owners, slaves, politicians, movie stars, moms and daughters. There are love letters, a "last will and testament" and eyewitness accounts of historic events. For me, the most unusual was from Marilyn Monroe, who taped a handwritten note to her stomach before having her appendix out, begging her doctor to "cut as little as possible." I also got caught up in the World War II letters from a Japanese American wife housed in a separate internment camp from her husband. This is a fascinating way to see America through its cultural and political changes and observe the changing roles of women.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8568f24) out of 5 stars A History Lesson for All Nov. 3 2006
By JGBHaley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Women's Letters: America...Present is a wonderful look into America's history told beautifully by scores of women. This should be required reading for every high-schooler across the country. The depth and breadth of the writers and their experiences is an unforgettable journey. I adored the letters from the young girls; was heartbroken and elated along with each author; and brilliantly reminded of our dedication to family, country, God, and the struggle to find our own voices. I read a letter or two each night, and often read long into the night, unable to put down the book. There are a few long letters that drone on, and eventually I skipped past them altogether. Some of the letters are difficult to read, as the letters have been printed as they were written, so there are some with little to no punctuation, stunted grammer and misspellings. I did, however, appreciate the editor's committment to maintaining the integrity of the writing, and that committment gave it's own voice to the letters, in turn strengthening the author's voice. This book rates 5 out of 5 stars - I'd give it more if I could!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa841530c) out of 5 stars A great gift for a woman... March 1 2007
By E. HENEGHAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my mother, who enjoys it very much. Its easy reading, but powerful, insightful, and uplifting. Highly recommended.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa84152b8) out of 5 stars The Best Way to Learn History Nov. 4 2006
By Piano 88 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My daughter's American history class in college was presented only through letters written about the era, and I was envious of her reading "live" history at her age. Now I have it, and from the unique perspective of women. The book is approprate for both genders, but girls and women of all ages in particular will be moved in ways textbooks can never do. The editors have done a great job in the variety of walks of life and experiences. It inspires me to write my own perspective for my grandchilren.