Blog post

Choice on Sheila Rowbotham's Dreamers of a New Day

Clara Heyworth 4 April 2011

Choice "highly recommends" Sheila Rowbotham's Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century as we approach the book's publication in paperback (June) ...

Sheila Rowbotham deepens and broadens understanding of Progressivism from approximately 1890 to 1930. Most pages introduce little-known activists who contributed to this period of dynamic change through their words and deeds. In Britain and the US, Rowbotham's feminists did not merely dream of refashioning personal life, the home, and society from Victorian norms, but also frequently put ideas into practice through founding model apartments, savings banks, and labor cooperatives. In linking feminists on both sides of the Atlantic, the author joins historians who show the transatlantic interplay of ideas and movements—for example, Kathryn Kish Sklar, Anja Schüler, and Susan Strasser (editors) in Social Justice Feminists in the United States and Germany: A Dialogue in Documents, 1885–1933. For US historians, Rowbotham's energetic, informative narrative updates previous works, including Leslie Fishbein's Rebels in Bohemia: The Radicals of The Masses, 1911–1917, and complements Joanna Levin's Bohemia in America, 1858–1920. With telling quotations and examples, Rowbotham succeeds in showing the extent of feminist imaginings. Nonetheless, her analysis at times minimizes the distinctiveness of her subjects' voices and the implicit disagreements among them. The futures of which they dreamed were often as diverse as the women themselves. Highly recommended.

[L.L. Stevenson, Franklin and Marshall College]

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