Harvard Educational Review
  1. The Timetables of Women's History

    A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in Women's History

    By Karen Greenspan

    New York: Touchstone Books. 1996. 459 pp. $21.00 (paper).

    The Timetables of Women's History: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in Women's History is a useful reference book for educators in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities. Add this work to the growing list of curriculum materials needed to incorporate women's history into the existing canon. At last year's Berkshire Conference of the History of Women, a panel of high school teachers decried the paucity of good women's history materials to supplement their lessons. Greenspan's work helps fill this gap.

    Timetables of Women's History is four hundred pages of facts and essays on important women and events in history. International in scope, it is organized chronologically, covering the years "–4000" to 1992. Predictably, the entries are richer and more numerous the closer one gets to recent history. The reader can learn the year women voted for the first time in Iran (1963), and that Margaret Brent (1600–1671) "was the first woman to own land in the colony of Maryland" (p. 176). Photographs accompany some of the entries.

    In addition to the chronological organization, ten headings contribute to the framework: General/Context; Daily Life/Customs/Practices; Humanities/Fine Arts; Occupations; Education; Performing Arts/Entertainment/ Sports; Religion/Philosophy; Science/Technology/Discovery; Statecraft/ Military; and Reform. Brief essays are interspersed in the timetable on women's involvement in historical events, such as "Egyptian Queens," "Women's Position in Early Christianity," "Renaissance Women Artists," and "The Japanese Women's Movement." These paragraphs provide a narrative to balance the plethora of facts in this work.

    A strength of this work is its diversity of entries. The reader can learn about the Vietnamese sisters Trung Nhi and Trung Trac, who in the year 30 A.D. "organized a revolution against their Chinese overlords" (p. 47) and that women were admitted to Scottish universities "on equal terms with men" in 1892 (p. 280). More recent history includes a blurb under the heading "Daily Life/Customs/Practices," in which the author notes that in 1990, Black women in South Africa were given contraceptive injections, "often without their knowledge" (p. 404). Though most works of this kind are assortments of trivia (and this book is no exception), it still highlights important events in women's lives, reveals the oppression women have faced, and celebrates women's accomplishments over the course of several millennia.

    The historian in me would have appreciated a list of sources used to compile this work or, at the very least, other references for more information. Also, the term "feminist" is sprinkled liberally throughout this text, and is often used anachronistically. For example, one of the essays is titled "Christine de Pizan: The First Feminist," though de Pizan lived during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Greenspan applies the term feminist at will and matter-of-factly, despite the current scholarly debate on the retroactive application of the term, which wasn't used until the late nineteenth century.

    As for the design of this collection, it is annoying that some entries continue on succeeding pages due to limited space. This is complicated further by the absence of periods at the end of entries. In addition, this book is loaded with "famous firsts," the bane of many women's historians. However, my sense is that educators will employ Greenspan's collection as one in a variety of curriculum materials on women's history. Timetable of Women's History gives basic background data that will hopefully inspire students and teachers to research further the lives and events found in its pages. I welcome Greenspan's compilation and recommend it to educators and historians as a quick reference guide to place on the shelf next to other curriculum materials on women's history.

    C.A.W.
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