Incredibly--from 39 outstanding women, 35 or so outstanding oral histories. The explanation may lie, unsuspected, in that almost-chichi alliterative title: as architect/planner Denise Scott Brown observes, ""women need more passion than men to stick it out""--not only on account of the obstacles, but because (until recently) they've had an alternative. But part of the credit must go, also, to the interviewing that tapped chat passion and--with the editing--channeled it so discreetly that no two accounts read alike. Among those talking at will about their work, how they came to it, what difference being a woman made, are: in the arts--La Mama theater's Ellen Stewart (one of those who ""started something"" to foster others' work--partly from their own lack of formal training); and in theoretical, traditionally masculine disciplines--mathematician Grace Murray Hopper (developer of the computer language COBOL for the majority who are not ""symbol manipulators""); in the law--women's rights advocate Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the process--and necessity--or organizing a step-by-step litigation campaign); and so on--in medicine and science, in journalism and the media, in public life. Household names turn up too--Agnes de Mille, Rosalyn Yalow, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Louise Nevelson, Billie Jean King, Sarah Caldwell, Julia Child, Joan Ganz Cooney--along with such feminist stalwarts as Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Betty Friedan. There are some wrenching personal stories--Gotham Book Mart founder Frances Steloff, b. 1887, was a bound-out child denied books, denied schooling (who later collected books to have, not to read). And one can draw various conclusions, generation by generation, from their life-stories in tote. But if they are women pathfinders, they are preeminently inspired doers--whose reasons for doing what they did are a story in themselves.