Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, a time during which we recognize and pay tribute to the generations of women whose efforts have truly impacted today’s society. We would like to recognize some of our recent titles celebrating women’s history and feminism in national and transnational contexts.

In recent years, scholars from a variety of disciplines have turned their attention to food to gain a better understanding of history, culture, economics and society. This stimulating collection, From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies, contributes to the emerging genre by investigating the important connections between food studies and women’s studies. In particular, contributors note the ways in which gender, race, ethnicity, class, colonialism, and capitalism have both shaped and been shaped by the production of food. One section explores how women have held families together by keeping them nourished, from the routines of an early nineteenth-century New Englander to the plight of women who endured the siege of Leningrad. Another section documents acts of female resistance within the contexts of national or ethnic oppression, and how food has served as a means to assert independence and personal identity.

As first complete modern edition of “The Female Marine” and Related Works, retells a fictional cross-dressing trilogy originally published between 1815 and 1818. An enormously popular narrative for New England readers, the story recounts the adventures of a young woman from rural Massachusetts who is seduced by a false-hearted lover, flees to Boston, and is entrapped in a brothel. She eventually escapes by disguising herself as a man and serves with distinction on board the U.S. frigate Constitution during the War of 1812. Cohen situates the famous story in literary and historical contexts, providing a unique portrayal of prostitution and interracial city life in early nineteenth-century America.

In One Colonial Woman’s World, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673-1758), the author of the earliest surviving diary by an American woman. A native of Roxbury Massachusetts, who later moved to Connecticut, Coit began her diary at the age of fifteen and kept it intermittently until she was well into her seventies. Coit’s long life covered an eventful period in American history, and this book explores the numerous – and sometimes surprising – ways in which her personal history was linked to broader social and political developments. It also provides insight into the lives of countless other colonial American women whose history remains largely untold.

Competing understandings of womanhood have led to two schools of thought in modern feminism: one of male-female equality that strives for rights in social and political spheres, and one of gender difference that analyzes and reevaluates solely the concept of womanhood. What are the sociocultural foundations of these seemingly opposing gender constructs and why has the American feminist movement failed to articulate an ideology that encompasses both? Debra Gold Hansen’s Strained Sisterhood explores the origins of the equality-versus-difference debate by examining the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, which disbanded in 1840 over this very issue. Through her findings, she concludes that many of the issues that estranged female abolitionists in antebellum Boston continue to divide women today, testifying not the strength of the bonds between women but to the fragility of those ties.

In From the Dance Hall to Facebook, author Shayla Thiel-Stern takes a close look at several historical snapshots, including working-class girls in dance halls of the early 1900s; girls’ track and field teams in the 1920s to 1940s; Elvis Presley fans in the mid-1950s; punk rockers in the late 1970s and early 1980s; and girls using the Internet in the early twenty-first century. In each case, issues of gender, socioeconomic status, and race are explored within their historical context. the book argues that by marginalizing and stereotyping teen girls over the past century, mass media have perpetuated a pattern of gendered crisis that ultimately limits the cultural and political power of the young women it covers.


And coming out in July 2015, Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies recognizes the influential and insightful activist’s impact beyond the United States. Most scholars have situated Lorde’s work within the context of the women’s, gay and lesbian, and black civil rights movements within the United States. However, Lorde forged coalitions with women in Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, and twenty years after her passing, these alliances remain largely undocumented and unexplored. This book, edited by Stella Bolaki and Sabine Broeck, is the first to thoroughly investigate Lorde’s influence beyond the United States. The volume brings together scholarly essays, interviews, unpublished speeches, and personal reflections of key figures to assess the reception, translation, and circulation of Lorde’s writing and activism within different communities, audiences, and circles.

For more books on women’s studies, review the subject heading on our website.


Emily Esten is an editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst.