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GIRLS by Penny Colman

GIRLS

A History of Growing Up Female in America

By Penny Colman

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-590-37129-0

A brief discussion of the development and persistence of gender roles acts as an introduction to this excellent overview of what it has meant to be a girl in this country, from pre-colonial times to the present. Colman (Rosie the Riveter, 1995, etc.) never resorts to a generic ideal or tells the story as if she is speaking of an “everygirl”; instead, she allows a narrative to emerge from the histories and words of real people, from every social, ethnic, and economic level in the US. Some of the subjects and speakers are well-known, others are not (although they probably ought to be), but all are interesting and inspiring. Alice Greenough, daughter of “Packsaddle Ben” Greenough, grew up in the turn-of-the- century Montana wilderness where she did all the things her brothers did; Mary Elizabeth Bowser, a young black woman, worked with Elizabeth Van Lew, a middle-aged white woman, as spies for the Union army; Lilac Chen, a former prostitute in 19th- century San Francisco, tells how her own father sold her into slavery in China when she was only 6; and Yvonne “Eve” Blue, an obviously anorexic 14-year-old, maintained her gaunt frame by limiting herself to 140 calories a day—in 1926. These and dozens of other fascinating people offer more insight into gender roles better than any history text or sociological treatise, in lively writing that is greatly enhanced by page after page of black-and-white photographs, an extensive list of further reading, and a good index. A must-have for most collections. (Nonfiction. 8-12)