Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Changing History: Virginia Women through Four Centuries

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Changing History: Virginia Women through Four Centuries

Article excerpt

Changing History: Virginia Women Through Four Centuries * Cynthia A. Kierner, Jennifer R. Loux, and Megan Taylor Shockley * Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2013 * xvii, 460 pp. * $24.95

It is hard to imagine current or future scholars of Virginia's history excluding Changing History: Virginia Women through Four Centuries from their bibliographies. Cynthia Kierner, Jennifer Loux, and Megan Taylor Shockley have skillfully demonstrated how the historical narrative of Virginia women is no mere special interest story but is rather an integral component of the history of the Old Dominion. One cannot know the state's history without understanding the collective and unique histories of its women. Spanning four centuries, from the seventeenth through the twentieth, Changing History emphasizes the intersection of race, class, and gender in Virginia women's lives and is replete with evidence of how women of all backgrounds continually attempted and sometimes succeeded in breaking down the barriers associated with those social categories. Changing History is ultimately a story of perseverance for Virginia's women, because though their march toward equality has been slow and arduous, it has also been impassioned and steady.

The authors each wrote the sections of the book that best fit their individual expertise: Kierner tackled the first three chapters on colonial and early national history, Loux composed the chapter on the 1850s through Reconstruction, and Shockley wrote the remaining chapters on the late nineteenth through the twentieth century. The end product is seamless and flows as if written by a single author. Such smooth and collaborative writing makes for an enjoyable read.

The authors contend that Virginia is "a commonwealth of contradictions" (p. 354). Although they present a fundamentally progressive narrative, highlighting examples of women's empowerment, theirs is not a romanticized history. …

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