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Book cover of A Strong Minded Woman

A Strong Minded Woman

by Wendy Hamand Venet

Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Pages: 236
Paperback
ISBN: 9781558495135






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Overview of A Strong Minded Woman

When Mary Livermore died in 1905 at age 84, a Boston newspaper praised her as "America’s foremost woman." A leading figure in the struggle for woman’s rights as well as in the temperance movement, she was as widely recognized during her lifetime as Susan B. Anthony, and for a time the most popular and highly paid female orator in the country. Yet aside from Civil War historians familiar with her service as a wartime nurse, few today remember even her name. In this book, Wendy Hamand Venet reconstructs Mary Livermore’s remarkable story and explores how and why she became so renowned in her day. Born and raised in Boston, Livermore left home at age eighteen to become the private schoolteacher to a wealthy tobacco planter’s children in Virginia, an experience that afforded her an intimate look at slave-based society in the 1840s. Returning to New England, she married and lived a conventional life as the wife of a minister and mother of three daughters. With the coming of the Civil War, however, Livermore’s life changed dramatically when she became active with the United States Sanitary Commission, an organization that would propel her into the public limelight and cause her to challenge society’s traditional view of the role of women. After the war Livermore became deeply involved in the woman’s rights movement, serving as editor of the newspaper Woman’s Journal and later as president of three major suffrage organizations-the American, New England, and Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Associations. She was also founder and president of the Massachusetts Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and became active in the Society of Christian Socialists in Boston. Her frequent speaking appearances on behalf of these causes eventually earned her the nickname "Queen of the Platform." Although she may not have been as radical as some other early feminists, Livermore’s ideas resonated with thousands of middle-class women whose experiences paralleled her own. For that reason alone, Venet shows, her life and legacy are worthy of our attention.

Synopsis of A Strong Minded Woman

She probably did not stand out much in the 1850s, a wife and mother living a quiet life. However, she had taught planter's children in the slave culture of the South, and she had some pretty interesting ideas going on in that head graced by a modest bonnet. When the war came she worked as a nurse and became deeply involved in the United States Sanitary Commission, which was actually a source of a variety of reforms involving the lives of women. By the 1870s Livermore gave 150 speeches a year and was the most popular female orator in America, speaking for the aforesaid Commission and for the American Woman Suffrage Association and other organizations supporting temperance and women's rights. Venet (history, Georgia State U.) writes an accessible narration of this life too long ignored. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

author of Wendell Phillips: Liberty s Hero - James Brewer Stewart

"Mary Livermore was a very important historical figure, and one about whom we have forgotten all too much. She played absolutely essential leadership roles in post-Civil War feminism and other reforms, developed a compelling personal ideology of female reform, and became a powerful figure in genteel popular culture. Wendy Hamand Venet speaks enlighteningly to all these crucial aspects of Livermore s public life, and she is equally effective in rendering her subject s private life. Only excellent biographies do this well, and this book meets that standard."

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Editorials

James Brewer Stewart

"Mary Livermore was a very important historical figure, and one about whom we have forgotten all too much. She played absolutely essential leadership roles in post-Civil War feminism and other reforms, developed a compelling personal ideology of ‘female reform,’ and became a powerful figure in genteel popular culture. Wendy Hamand Venet speaks enlighteningly to all these crucial aspects of Livermore’s public life, and she is equally effective in rendering her subject’s private life. Only excellent biographies do this well, and this book meets that standard."
—author of Wendell Phillips: Liberty’s Hero

The Historian

Wendy Hamand Venet has made a significant contribution by rescuing this forgotten woman in this well-written biography.

The Journal of American History

Venet was able to effectively use Livermore's published memoir, stories, letters, and editorials to piece together the story of [Livermore's] life. The result is an engagingly written contribution
to the history of the struggle for woman's rights.

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