The Blackwell family, which figures in the social history of nineteenth-century America, comprised five sisters and two brothers. The latter were ""extraordinary"" chiefly on account of their wives: Samuel's was the first ordained female minister, and Henry married Lucy Stone, whose importance in the crusade for women's rights was established by the author in Morning Star, 1961. All the Blackwell sisters engaged themselves in this crusade with ladylike doggedness. Elizabeth, the most famous, became the first woman M.D. in 1849; the others' unconventional pursuits included foreign correspondence, spiritualism, and suffragetting. Acquaintances like Horace Greeley, Mrs. Stowe and Florence Nightingale appear briefly. The author represents the Blackwells as a microcosm of the reformist age. Actually these children of abolitionists and dissenters exemplify one particular stripe of reformer--apolitical, moralistic and unsentimental. The author avoids interpreting the sisters' aversion to marriage and their family relationships: this exemplary restraint is not balanced by notable insight into character and historical setting. A lacklustre, though highly competent biography.