An illuminating series of crisp, lively portraits of ""enterprising"" American women--from Colonial days when Mary Goddard printed the Declaration of Independence to Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post (in a sense she's Goddard's 1976 counterpart). But this is not merely a random sample of success stories. Even when the biographical material is skimpy Ms. Bird manages to convey the personal impact of both the famous and the unknown women within the context of prevailing sex roles and cultural attitudes. The author has a good deal to say about the influence--for good or ill--of women like Sarah Hale (1788-1879) ""editoress"" of the Ladies Magazine and Godey's Lady's Book, who encouraged more playgrounds for parks and airy bedrooms, but also delivered pious lectures on the ""mystic vocation"" of womanhood. Among the portraits: innovators in education and business, nurses and social workers, ""confidence builders"" like Mary Baker Eddy and Lydia Pinkham (her original compound contained exotic Caribbean ingredients and 18 percent alcohol), writers, medical pioneers, and even brothel owners. The author concludes that the careers she discusses have certain prerequisites: access to books and ideas; family or, these days, cultural support; freedom from pregnancy (many were widows or unmarried); and often, in the past, the spur of domestic crisis. Ms. Bird takes historical currents where they lead her (a fine side trip into Colonial printing) and there's an unhurried, non-didactic tone which makes this a decided pleasure (not a duty) to read. A solid Bicentennial project sponsored by the Business and Professional Women's Foundation.