This first full-scale Duniway biography effectively if unexcitingly tracks her long, combative career from her 1834 birth in...

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REBEL FOR RIGHTS, ABIGAIL SCOTT DUNIWAY

This first full-scale Duniway biography effectively if unexcitingly tracks her long, combative career from her 1834 birth in Illinois (third of twelve children) to her death in 1915 in Oregon, the state she harangued and badgered into passing woman's suffrage. Beginning with her mother's incessant childbearing, historian Moynihan shows, everything in Duniway's background alerted her to the cause of women's rights. When her mother died on the grueling way west and her idolized father swiftly and disastrously remarried, Abigail and her sisters hastily made matches for themselves. Abigail's--to handsome, impulsive cowboy Benjamin Duniway, soon a failure and an invalid--proved a lifelong trial. Moynihan focuses, however, on Duniway's feminist politics--enunciated in editorials in New Northwest (the publication she edited from 1871 to 1887), 17 novels serialized there, her autobiography, and coast-to-coast lectures on behalf of woman's suffrage. Duniway's no-nonsense Western brand of feminism (she opposed temperance, for instance) put her at odds with the conservative Eastern leadership; and suffragist in-fighting could be dirty indeed. ""Robbed"" by her husband, drained by her six children, opposed by her influential brother (editor of The Oregonian), repudiated by many feminists, and repeatedly slandered by antifeminists, Duniway lived to see woman suffrage adopted in Oregon in 1912. Moynihan's pedestrian narrative doesn't explain some basic contradictions in Duniway's character: her peculiar combination of self-pity and courage, self-sacrifice and ambition, romantic sentimentality and plain-spoken feistiness. Still, recording the events of this long life, Moynihan exhaustively catalogues what Duniway did if not who she was--adding some substance, also, to our sparse knowledge of Western feminism.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1983

ISBN: 0300034784

Page Count: -

Publisher: Yale Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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