National Women’s History Month: Final Installment

Since March is coming to an end, and April is going to be a busy month here on the Press Blog, this is going to be the last post in our series of books for National Women’s History Month. So far, we’ve covered some important books on topics like women at war, the role of books in the lives of women, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

To wrap things up, today’s post will star two new UNC Press books about the history of women’s agency in some of the most basic aspects of life: procreation and eating.

In Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820, author Susan E. Klepp details the transformation from a colonial society that valued a maximum number of children per household, into one where the first generation of American women brought in a “sensible, sentimental, and carefully planned family of beloved daughters and sons that freed women to pursue other interests.” For Klepp, this change is “a different American Revolution, one invented and implemented by wives.”

Like Klepp’s book, Tracey Deutsch’s Building a Housewife’s Paradise: Gender, Politics, and American Grocery Stores in the Twentieth Century illuminates how married women in the United States played a primary role in the evolution of a key element of American life: the rise of the supermarket. Until the 1920s, food procurement was difficult and time consuming, and women shoppers were viewed as experts on nutrition and bartering.  However, over the course of the next few decades, food shopping came to be understood as pleasurable and easy and was redefined as best suited to large stores with streamlined product distribution in which the woman doing the shopping had little authority. Deutsch argues that the rise of this system resulted not only from women’s expectation for lower prices in these new “super markets” but also from new government policies in retailing and a new discourse on femininity that minimized the difficulties of shopping.

Thanks to everyone who checked in on these posts–UNC Press has many fine books on the history of women in America, and they all deserve your attention. Get ready for tons of posts in April!

–Matt

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