A fresh contribution to women’s history and a resurrection of contributions too often overlooked.



A study about how home economics has reflected changing attitudes about women’s lives in the past 150 years.

Education journalist Dreilinger makes a spirited book debut with a well-researched history of home economics, founded in the late 19th century by women who believed that improving the home through science would improve society. Through the years, the field, branding itself as domestic science, enlarged its scope. Home economists, writes the author, “originated the food groups, the federal poverty level, the consumer protection movement, clothing care labels, school lunch, the discipline of women’s studies, and the Rice Krispies Treat.” The author offers adroit portraits of women who shaped the field. These include Ellen Swallow Richards, for example, a chemist who became MIT’s first female instructor and wrote books about adulterated food and the chemistry involved in housework; and her contemporary Margaret Murray Washington (wife of Booker T.), who wrote Work for the Colored Women of the South, a household manual for impoverished Black rural women, hoping that improving the home would hasten racial equality. For much of its history, the field was blighted by racism and xenophobia. Still, home economists found opportunities in business, laboratories, and academia that might otherwise have been closed to them. In 1923, the field gained status when President Warren Harding created the Bureau of Home Economics, whose purpose was to research “the scientific basis for the mechanics of living.” World War II saw a surge of respect for Bureau scientists, who “figured out how to sterilize wool, treat cotton against mildew, and improve the flavor and nutrient retention of dehydrated food.” After the war, though, when women were enjoined to leave jobs and stay home, the field, Dreilinger writes ruefully, became “repressive, boring,” and trivialized. The Bureau ended in the early 1960s, and home economics turned from its scientific roots to emphasize the delights of homemaking and women’s responsibilities to nurture strong, happy families.

A fresh contribution to women’s history and a resurrection of contributions too often overlooked.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00449-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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