A significant contribution to the history of gender in the US. (illustrations, not seen)




A scholarly study of women's participation in one of the great (and forgotten) American endeavors of the 19th century.

Historians have gradually been recovering the record of women's public activism in the US. But one of the greatest social service institutions in the nation's past, the Civil War–era United States Sanitary Commission (with its 7,000 affiliated soldiers’ aid societies in which women played a central role) has remained largely unknown. Giesberg not only reminds us of the Commission's part in the war effort of the 1860s but argues, on the whole successfully, that it is the missing link in the awakening of women's participation in American public life. Not surprisingly, men ran the Commission's national organization—and created the ideological template by which it has been recalled and interpreted ever since. But women commanded its local branches. And, as Giesberg argues, recovering the affiliates' history fills in a gap in the history of the Civil War itself. Struggling to provide food and clothing to soldiers and maintain their families while pushing against a culture of domesticity, benevolence, and conventional self-segregation, thousands of women gained new experience through the politics necessary to help their fighting men and thus took another step toward their emancipation and integration into the nation's larger life. It was not easy, and much divided them. Giesberg shows how such unsung women as Louisa Lee Schuyler, Abigail Williams May, and Mary Livermore helped lay the groundwork for the further broadening of women's activism in the Progressive era. This argument will be controversial among those to point to other sources of the women's rights movement, but it is plausible—and surely the details of the story are important in themselves.

A significant contribution to the history of gender in the US. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 21, 2000

ISBN: 1-55553-434-1

Page Count: 229

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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