Taken from the letters and diaries of 40 women, these excerpts give an immediacy to key periods and events in American history. Some of the women--Abigail Adams, Clara Barton, Mother Jones--are well known; many others, far from legendary, nonetheless have keen insights to offer--on being an Indian captive, on the siege of Boston, on an 1850 Newfoundland-to-California sail, when butter was $1.50 a pound. Hawaiian Queen Liliukolani tells of her 1895 imprisonment and forced abdication; bobbin girl Lucy Larcom recalls life in the Lowell mills. Others include a Donner-Pass party survivor, one of the few who managed without eating human flesh; a Northern spy who passed as a black man behind Confederate lines; a pioneer doctor and former milliner, discussing her unlikely transition; and ""Dame Shirley"" Clappe in the Sierra goldfields, entertaining her sister with the story of her $3.25 strike: ""I wet my feet, tore my dress, spoilt a pair of new gloves, nearly froze my fingers, got an awful headache, took cold and lost a valuable breastpin, in this my labor of love."" Highly diverting and well-balanced, from colonial start to 1894 Jewish immigrant finish.