This collection of eleven essays derives directly from a larger work, American Reform and Reformers ( 1996), in which all but one of the contributions to Against the Tide originally appeared. This paperback edition focusing on women reformers includes an essay on black abolitionist Mary Ann Shadd Cary, written by Paul A. Cimbala expressly for this volume, and a revised introductory essay on the character of American reform and women's place in it. The essays are arranged in a rough chronological order, charting the development of American reform over time and the interplay of American women reformers across a spectrum of reform activity. The essays, thus, not only discuss women's roles in reform but also offer lenses to see reform through the eyes of different women.
In selecting the reformers and reforms represented in this collection, we made no attempt to be comprehensive. Women were (and are) invested in so many different reforms, their influence on the character of American reform was (and is) so pervasive, and reform has shot out in so many directions that any attempt to provide total coverage of women in reform or of American reform would be futile. Rather, by offering a series of case studies showing women in a variety of American reform movements, Against the Tide tries principally to mark the basic contours of American reform thought and action and to locate women within the American reform tradition. In so doing, it challenges the assumption that men's experience counts as the narrative for any historical event or movement.
Each essay stands on its own, with its own story and its own particular history of a woman reformer and a movement. None of the subjects was a minor figure, and none of the reforms was a fringe movement. Each essay also suggests how particular individuals worked out their own ideas. When read together, the essays show that American reform and American women intersected in countless