WOMEN WHO CHANGED THINGS by Linda & Ursula Smith Peavy


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Nine biographies of little-known women (""hitherto largely neglected"") whose achievements ""must have had a significant effect on the lives of others,"" in their time (the 50-year span from 1880 to 1930) and in future generations. Most are reformers of one sort or another: Physician Sara Josephine Baker, a New York City public health doctor ""willing to challenge accepted opinions,"" dramatically reduced the high death rate among babies in the city's slums; Mary McDowell, a ""settlement lady"" in the Packingtown neighborhood of Chicago, became known as ""the garbage lady"" in her fight to close the dump that was responsible for widespread disease; and journalist Ida Wells-Barnett, born a slave in 1862, exposed lynchings and discrimination to the discomfort of Memphis whites, the New York Times, and the Chicago YMCA. The science entry, Williamina Fleming, began as an immigrant housemaid in the home of the Harvard observatory director and with only his guidance as education, became a leading astronomer of her time. Also worthy if less likely to induce enthusiasm are mountain climber Annie Smith Peck, ""a national figure and an alpinist in earnest"" at 45 and an active climber to age 85, and Candace Thurber Wheeler, a genteel housewife until age 50, who worked with Louis Tiffany anti devoted her third quarter-century to achieving commercial status for women's handicraft. Each biography is preceded by a dramatized, sometimes artificial ""vignette"" based on primary sources. The life summaries are unexciting overall but eminently respectable, with likely curricular utility.

Pub Date: March 8th, 1983
Publisher: Scribners