rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 1: p. 73
Sources: Feminist Writings from Ancient Times to the Modern World: A Global Sourcebook and History
Madeline Veitch

Graduate Assistant, Sloane Art Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This sourcebook collects 203 excerpts from feminist “poems, letters, essays, speeches, court decisions, and other documents,”(xiv) presenting each one alongside a short overview of its historical context and critical reception. Drawing from a wide variety of locations and an expansive timeframe (2350 BCE—2009 CE ), works excerpted address an array of topics including “political and legal rights,” “work and economics,” “religion and spirituality,” and “race and racism” (xxix-xl). Editor Tiffany K. Wayne states in the introduction that while the book attempts to cover a wide range of issues within feminist discourses, comprehensive coverage is not its aim. Rather, the authors hoped to make a variety of locally situated perspectives on gender-based discrimination accessible to the reader, including works that might be hard to find elsewhere, or that have been omitted from sources that exclusively privilege Western forms of feminism.

The majority of the featured excerpts are roughly a page in length. Each one is prefaced by a short biography of the author, while the remaining portion of the entry is divided between sections for “analysis,” “critical response,” “impact and legacy,” and “suggested reading.” Entries are written in a formal but highly accessible tone, with few footnotes and an emphasis on key points over in-depth analysis. For early undergraduate and high school research, this level of coverage could be particularly useful for framing a paper topic or developing preliminary research questions. Suggested reading lists tend to be short but would facilitate first steps in source collection.

In its inclusion and discussion of primary documents, the book is structurally similar to Leslie Heywood’s The Women’s Movement Today: An Encyclopedia of Third Wave Feminism (Greenwood Press, 2006), as well as the more granular thematic anthologies produced by the Feminist Press at the City University of New York. In contrast, the focus on primary texts sets this work apart from traditional and predominantly topical encyclopedias of feminist or women’s issues, such as Helen Tierney’s Women’s Studies Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 1999), or Cheris Kramarae and Dale Spender’s Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women’s Issues and Knowledge (Routledge, 2000).

For more advanced research, Anne Commire’s Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia (Yorkin Publications, 1999) undoubtedly provides greater depth than Wayne’s volume, particularly with regard to references for further research. While Commire’s entries also surpass Wayne’s in breadth with 8,000 entries recorded, it should be noted that in the case of authors listed by Wayne under the geographic headings of “Sub-Saharan Africa,” “Latin America and the Caribbean,” and the “Middle East and Northern Africa,” over half of the entries present works by writers absent from Commire’s text. Even so, one might expect to see more entries in total from these areas; according to the geographic table of contents in Wayne’s text, “Northern and Western Europe” and “North America” together comprise 117 entries, while the six remaining areas listed (plus a section for UN documents) include only 86 entries between them. Finally, while the book provides coverage of significant intersections between feminism and issues of race, sexuality, and socioeconomics, feminist texts produced by activists working around transgender and disability issues are notably absent.

Overall, this source may be a useful tool for students new to the study of feminist discourses but does not provide the depth or breadth needed to support upper-level undergraduate or graduate research.

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