March is National Women’s History Month

Celebrate the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society with one of these newly-published books owned by the Mercer County Library System:

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment By Robert K. Musil
Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment
By Robert K. Musil
The author redefines the achievements and legacy of environmental pioneer and scientist Rachel Carson, linking her work to a wide network of American women activists and writers and introducing her to a new, contemporary audience. Rachel Carson was the first American to combine two longstanding, but separate strands of American environmentalism—the love of nature and a concern for human health. Widely known for her 1962 best-seller Silent Spring, Carson is today often perceived as a solitary "great woman," whose work single-handedly launched a modern environmental movement. But, as Musil demonstrates, Carson's life's work drew upon and was supported by already existing movements, many led by women, in conservation and public health. On the 50th anniversary of her death, this book helps underscore Carson's enduring environmental legacy and brings to life the achievements of women writers and advocates such as Ellen Swallow Richards, Dr. Alice Hamilton, Terry Tempest Williams, Sandra Steingraber, Devra Davis, and Theo Colborn, all of whom overcame obstacles to build and lead the modern American environmental movement.

“Musil (Hope for a Heated Planet) offers a valuable history of noteworthy female American environmentalists . . . The book's most important contribution is its emphasis on the accomplishments of figures like nature writer Florence Merriam Bailey, ecology pioneer Ellen Swallow Richards, and naturalist/activist Terry Tempest Williams. They are Carson's intellectual sisters, and Musil presents them in chronological order, beginning with the 19th-century's first popular nature writer, Susan Fenimore Cooper. The careers of the women presented in the first two chapters are dutifully linked to Carson's accomplishments . . . The book's second half focuses on Carson's successors. In addition to Williams, there is Sandra Steingraber, who investigated the link between pesticides and cancer, and Devra Davis, who made feminist analyses of industrial pollution. Musil's work comes alive in this second half, his choices of influential female environmentalists more assured and better connected to Carson and her work.”—Publishers Weekly

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life By Nancy Koester
Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life
By Nancy Koester
“The subject of this accessible and absorbing interpretive biography was perhaps the most famous American woman of the nineteenth century and by far the most famous member of a family of distinguished indeed, notorious clergymen and Christian educators. Naturally enough, then, the lens through which Koester illuminates her subject is that of the Christian life. Harriet Beecher (who married another clergyman, Calvin Stowe) remained seriously committed to living out the Christianity all the Beechers embraced. That meant dedication to her spouse and children and also advancing the progressive Christian causes women's education and suffrage, abolition, black civil rights. Chafing to do her part after 18 years of motherhood, Stowe recruited female relatives to help her so she had the time to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, the biggest American best-seller of the nineteenth century. It made her a celebrity overnight. She followed it with further novels, short stories, travel accounts (enabled by her fame), home-management advice books, and plenty of advocacy journalism. Meanwhile, she struggled mentally with the stringent Calvinism of her father a development relieved somewhat by her understanding that living out Christianity, including utter trust in Jesus, was more important than theology. Koester engagingly and intelligently discusses each major novel, each family crisis, each journey, and each spiritual change, including a fluctuating interest in spiritualism after the deaths of two of her sons, without a whiff of academic fustiness. A top-notch read.”—Booklist (Starred Review)

The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—And the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News By Sheila Weller
The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—And the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News
By Sheila Weller
“In a business that continues to be overwhelmingly male-dominated, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour have carved out extraordinary careers for themselves, breaking barriers for women in television reporting. Best-selling author Weller draws on interviews with their friends and colleagues to offer portraits of the will and ambition each mustered to achieve iconic status. Raised in the genteel South, Sawyer has developed a hardworking, sophisticated image. Amanpour, whose family was forced out of Iran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, developed an abiding interest in international affairs. Couric, best known for her perky daytime persona, had to earn more serious regard as she became a network anchor. These women have operated across the spectrum in television, from 60 Minutes to ABC World News Tonight, from CNN to CBS Evening News. Weller details the personal tragedies they've dealt with: the death of Sawyer's father, personal threats to Amanpour, Couric's loss of her first husband to cancer. Weller also explores the unique personalities of these women and the set expectations among broadcast executives and viewers that they have had to overcome.”—Booklist

“Women have long struggled to be recognized as credible anchors on television news programs. In her latest work, Weller (Girls Like Us) documents the careers and lives of three contemporary female journalists: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour. Interspersing the personal and the professional, the author covers each woman's career in great detail, describing the struggles they faced as they transitioned from being small-time news anchors to media elite. Relying on interviews with their colleagues alongside portraits of their work, Weller uses a journalistic style to recount each phase of the women's careers. Sawyer leveraged a start in local TV broadcasts in Louisville, KY, into a career that has included 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, and ABC World News. Amanpour is recognized for her fearless coverage of war zones and her work with CNN. Couric moved from cohosting the Today show to anchoring CBS Evening News. Brimming with insider details, the book exposes the inner working of television. There is no sense that these contemporaries are collegial; the competitive side of the job is depicted as well. News junkies and fans will love all of the insider details on the media and the lives of these women.”—Library Journal

Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II By Denise Kiernan
Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II
By Denise Kiernan
“Atomic-bomb history includes works about the communities of workers attached to the main installations where the first nuclear weapon was built. Kiernan's contribution covers Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site of enormous factories built to separate uranium isotopes. A type of oral history, Kiernan's account derives from her intensive interviews with 10 women who, in their youth, labored in a range of occupations at Oak Ridge, from janitor to machine operator to secretary to engineer. With surrounding scaffolding of the scientific fundamentals and the 1942-45 technical development of the bomb, the narrative runs as a collection of individuals' life stories that recall circumstances of recruitment and the spartan conditions at Oak Ridge, on and off the job. Some commonalities of experience include the secrecy in which the women worked and the discrimination they endured (racial segregation in the case of the janitor; sexism in the cases of white women workers). Kiernan snugly fits original research into the creation story of Oak Ridge and should engage readers interested in both women's history and the background of the atomic bomb.”—Booklist

“This intimate and revealing glimpse into one of the most important scientific developments in history will appeal to a broad audience.”—Publishers Weekly

“Kiernan (Signing Their Lives Away) writes compellingly of the women who toiled in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Living and working with thousands of others in a secret city built almost overnight, those involved in the 'Project' were unaware that they were contributing to the most revolutionary scientific discovery of the 20th century. Moving between the individual narratives of the women workers and the story of the development of atomic fusion, Kiernan emphasizes the secretive nature of the work yet gives readers a greater understanding of the larger historical context. The endnotes provide comprehensive information about primary sources consulted as well as oral interviews Kiernan undertook with surviving workers. However, no complete bibliography is included. Kiernan capably captures the spirit of women's wartime opportunities and their sacrifices in what is ultimately a captivating narrative.”—Library Journal

Harlem Nocturne By Farah Jasmine Griffin
Harlem Nocturne
By Farah Jasmine Griffin
“Scholar Griffin portrays three groundbreaking, once celebrated, subsequently overlooked African American women artists who were inspired by 1940s Harlem, where creative ferment confronted social injustice. Pearl Primus was a premed student turned soaring dancer and innovative choreographer, who earned her PhD in dance education. Combining athleticism and grace to profound effect, Primus drew on African and Caribbean traditions to represent the dignity and strength of black people and to express their longing for freedom. Ann Petry, a fourth-generation New Englander, became an editor and columnist for the radical Harlem newspaper, People's Voice, and channeled her concerns about gender, race, and class inequities into her novel, The Street (1946), the first book by a black woman to sell a million copies. Deeply spiritual, highly influential jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams saw black music as . . . a gift to all humankind because it provided a way through pain and suffering to beauty and joy. Griffin's straight-ahead accounts of the remarkable lives of these clarion and valiant artists illuminate their exceptional vision, talent, and resoluteness in overcoming formidable barriers.”—Booklist

“Griffin's triptych focuses on dancer Pearl Primus, writer Ann Petry, and musician Mary Lou Williams-African-American political activists and artists who were innovative and influential during the 1940s, the era of the Double Victory Campaign (Victory at Home and Abroad), as black Americans "fought not only overseas for their country but also to be recognized as citizens at home." Devoting a section to each artist, Columbia University professor Griffin provides biographical details and a discerning assessment of particular works, among them Primus's 'Strange Fruit,' Petry's The Street, Williams's Zodiac Suite, and delineates their historical, social, and personal milieu. In placing the women's artistic endeavors squarely in the context of their political activities in the midst of the Double V Campaign, Griffin adds a fresh and provocative perspective to their creative work, but the book bursts at the seams. There's almost a whole history of Harlem, as well as a who's who of friends, husbands, employers, and contemporaries of the primary subjects (Katherine Dunham, Dinah Washington, Benjamin Davis, and others). Still, the book constitutes a giant step to securing the place all three subjects merit in American cultural history. Fully accessible to general readers, it will be mined by future scholars.”—Publishers Weekly

“It is refreshing to learn about Harlem's history beyond its well-known Renaissance and to be reminded of the essential roles African Americans, women, and artists have played in U.S. history. Readers of African American, U.S., urban, or cultural history and those studying feminism, female artists, and activism will benefit from these stories.”—Library Journal

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue
By Kathryn J. Atwood
Noor Inayat Khan was the first female radio operator sent into occupied France and transferred crucial messages. Johtje Vos, a Dutch housewife, hid Jews in her home and repeatedly outsmarted the Gestapo. Law student Hannie Schaft became involved in the most dangerous resistance work--sabotage, weapons transference, and assassinations. In these pages, young readers will meet these and many other similarly courageous women and girls who risked their lives to help defeat the Nazis. Twenty-six engaging and suspense-filled stories unfold from across Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, and the United States, providing an inspiring reminder of women and girls' refusal to sit on the sidelines around the world and throughout history. An overview of World War II and summaries of each country's entrance and involvement in the war provide a framework for better understanding each woman's unique circumstances, and resources for further learning follow each profile.

“Who were the heroes of World War II? the author asks. For her, they were the often ordinary women whose courageous actions helped win the war. In this helpful book, Atwood profiles 26 such women from eight different countries, including the U.S. What distinguishes her book is that most if not all of her heroes will be new to young readers, even though their accomplishments deserve to be known and remembered. The pieces are grouped by country, and each section begins with a brief history of that country's involvement in the war. The profiles themselves are fairly formulaic, each opening with a dramatic (and often undocumented) anecdote and concluding with a summary of each woman's heroic actions. Many of these involve participation in Resistance movements recount stories of sheltering Jews. With ample sidebars, notes, and a thorough bibliography, this book will be useful in the classroom.”—Booklist

Lisa S.


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