An academic report, including research projects that uphold ""women's ways of knowing"" and programs that allow women to...


"A TRADITION THAT HAS NO NAME: Nurturing the Development of People, Families and Communities"

An academic report, including research projects that uphold ""women's ways of knowing"" and programs that allow women to grow by ""gaining a voice,"" that is both uplifting and redundant. Coauthor Belenky (Women's Ways of Knowing, not reviewed) is one of the researchers who probed the idea that women receive and process knowledge in a way different from men. With her University of Vermont colleagues (Bond, Psychology; Weinstock, Education/Social Services) she further explores how women develop as leaders, ""raising up"" rather than ""ruling over"" the next generation (as opposed to men's thinking in such matters, which is more authoritarian). The emphasis here is on a funded project carried out in rural Vermont called ""Listening Partners."" The goal was to reach isolated women, bring them together, and help them develop independent modes of thought through mutual encouragement. As the women gathered in small groups organized by the authors, it was hoped (and affirmed) that they would move up through stages of thought (from ""Silenced"" to ""Constructivist""), and that the women would then be able to teach their children a more creative mode of thinking about the world. The book moves on to discuss observations of natural female leaders in small and large communities--""homeplaces""--who achieve communal goals by nurturing individual strengths in their neighbors and emphasizing consensus and cooperation. Among the grassroots organizations examined are the National Congress of Neighborhood Women and two Mothers' Center groups, one in Germany and one in the US. Most of the women who practice what the authors call ""developmental leadership"" have their roots in African-American communities. Although the research and observations validate and celebrate female styles of leadership that flourish around kitchen tables and in church basements, the accounts of success stories are often muddled and repetitious, with far too much attention paid to how research projects were designed.

Pub Date: June 4, 1997


Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997