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A Jury of Her Peers    by Elaine Showalter order for
Jury of Her Peers
by Elaine Showalter
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

It seems a bit hard to believe, but before Elaine Showalter, no author had ever attempted to create a complete history of America's woman writers. Showalter compiled a similar work in 1977 with A Literature of Their Own: British Woman Novelists from Bronte to Lessing, and as one of the founders of feminist literary theory, she is well-qualified to tackle such a daunting task.

Moving chronologically through history, from the 1600s to near-present day, Showalter highlights famous and lesser-known authors whose work has contributed to the literary landscape of America. By discussing the struggles and setbacks each woman faced in the pursuit of writing, she also traces the history of feminism and the fight for a woman's ability to define her place in the home and workforce.

Because she chose to write such a comprehensive volume, Showalter is limited to a few pages for each author - sometimes as little as one or two. At times this can be frustrating, as so many of the women introduced are fascinating in their own right, and the brief glimpses of their life leave the reader wishing for much more.

This is, however, a valuable and long-awaited resource. A Jury of Her Peers is compelling and readable, and will be welcomed by fans of feminist history as well as literary history.

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