A Ms.-sponsored documentary history can be expected to be an instrument of enlightenment--but it also sorts out the various women's movements since abolitionism; supplies a running history of the leading figures and their activities, the issues and contests; and offers in substantiation a host of excerpts--from speeches, letters, resolutions, memoirs, newspaper reports--that will fascinate the history buff and probably bore other people stiff. Testifying for the temperance movement is the case of Mrs. Margaret Freeland, of Syracuse, ""recently arrested"" for invading a rum-seller's house and smashing everything in sight. (""Mrs. Freeland had frequently told him of her sufferings and besought him to refrain from giving her husband the poison."") ""Associationism""--the rise of women's dubs and societies in the 1890s--is attributed to ""the changing economic and social character of the country,"" and thus of women, who found themselves in cities with more freedom and fewer ties; the clubs offered them companionship and purposeful activity. Separate developments coalesce in trends and yield some surprising conclusions--as that women actually lost ground between 1930 and 1960: though many more were working, fewer held professional jobs. Weakest is the post-1960 section, all manifestos, resolutions, and other official documents, and concerned almost exclusively with radical positions. But the balance of the book, however polemical and didactic, is also hard news.