WE RECOMMEND: Women in Early America by Dorothy Mays

Mays, Dorothy A. Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival, and Freedom in a New World. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Call number: HQ1416 .M395 2004

Women in Early America is one of my favorite subject-specific encyclopedias. This single volume contains biographical and topical entries pertaining to women and their experience in early America. Like most great reference books, this encyclopedia is a great place to start research. Each entry has suggestions for further reading, which is useful for identifying the most relevant and renowned materials on the given topic. The articles are accompanied by a motley array of images, excerpts from primary and secondary sources, and appendices. There is also an annotated bibliography divided by topics, such as the American Revolution, arts and letters, Native American women, and social life and customs.

In addition to having the qualities of a great reference book, Women in Early America is remarkably engaging. The author, Dorothy A. Mays, recognizes that the limitations of the historical record pose a challenge for conducting research about women. May attempts to address the diversity of women’s experience during this era. Famous females are featured alongside lesser-known women. Geography, nationality, religion, and social class shaped how women lived. Many of the topics describe aspects of women’s everyday life, including birth control, death and funeral customs, hobbies and games, hygiene, reputation, and shopping. The process for churning butter, brewing beer, filling a mattress, and other laborious work are detailed in an appendix on common household chores. All of these details combine to create a mosaic of women’s experience in early America.

You can find Women in Early America and other print reference materials in the reference section on the first floor.

Malia Wiley, Instruction Coordinator

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