American Colonial Women and Their Art: An Encyclopedia. By Mary Ellen Snodgrass. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. 383 p. $110 (ISNB 978-1-4422-7096-1). E-book Available (978-1-4422-7097-8), call for pricing.

American Colonial Women and their Art: An Encyclopedia has a unique focus, which makes it an interesting addition for most libraries. Though there are reference works that explore women and art and reference works that cover the American colonial period, there is not a work that focuses specifically on the art of colonial women. In addition to the distinctive topic, this one volume edition not only includes recognizable names such as Abigail Adams and Phillis Wheatley, but also less well-known women, such as Mary Roberts (miniaturist), Sarah Bushnell Perkins Grosvenor (painter), and Elizabeth Foote Huntington (needle worker). This reference work should make for a great tool for any researcher wanting to discover the artistic contributions of specific women.

Coverage spans from 1610 to 1789. A great variety of arts are featured, such as stitchery, quilting, rug hooking, painting, sculpture, sketches, essays, poems, novels, dancing, acting, oratory, musical compositions and performances, and more. It is arranged chronologically, with each year including major events and developments outlined by months and in some cases, specific dates. Many entries provide an image of either an artist or her work, which helps to illustrate what is being discussed.

Though the chronological arrangement makes for lively reading and helps to show the development of women’s artistic skill and prominence during this period, it does make it hard to locate specific women a researcher may be interested in learning more about. The index becomes a very necessary tool for finding people and events in this text. There are two appendixes at the back that are also very helpful in identifying specific women: Art Genres and Artists by State.

Other valuable features are the glossary and the bibliography. The glossary is very useful for understanding unfamiliar terms and concepts from the period, such as “aubade” and “peplum,” and it is written in a way that makes the concepts easier to understand. The extensive bibliography includes sections for Historical Periodicals, Tracts, Essays, and Letters, Historic Books, Secondary Sources, Periodicals and Theses, and Electronic Resources. The many details throughout the book and the bibliography suggest that the author delved deeply into primary sources in the writing of this reference work.

The target audience for this reference work is college students, art scholars, women’s studies scholars, and historians. Anyone wishing to learn more about the contributions and impact of women during the colonial period will find this chronological encyclopedia a valuable resource.—Arianne A. Hartsell-Gundy, Librarian for Literature and Theater Studies, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2019 RUSA