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Women's History

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  1. 14.8 hrs • 2/13/2017 • Unabridged

    In tracing the rise of the modern idea of the American “new woman,” Lynn Dumenil examines World War I’s surprising impact on women and, in turn, women’s impact on the war. Telling the stories of a diverse group of women, including African Americans, dissidents, pacifists, reformers, and industrial workers, Dumenil analyzes both the roadblocks and opportunities they faced. She richly explores the ways in which women helped the United States mobilize for the largest military endeavor in the nation’s history. Dumenil shows how women activists staked their claim to loyal citizenship by framing their war work as home-front volunteers, overseas nurses, factory laborers, and support personnel as “the second line of defense.” But in assessing the impact of these contributions on traditional gender roles, Dumenil finds that portrayals of these new modern women did not always match with real and enduring change. Extensively researched and drawing upon popular culture sources as well as archival material, The Second Line of Defense offers a comprehensive study of American women and war and frames them in the broader context of the social, cultural, and political history of the era.

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    The Second Line of Defense by Lynn Dumenil

    The Second Line of Defense

    14.8 hrs • 2/13/17 • Unabridged
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  2. 9.7 hrs • 1/24/2017 • Unabridged

    Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne was painted by Édouard Manet and inspired Émile Zola, who immortalized her in his scandalous novel Nana. Her rumored affairs with Napoleon III and the future King Edward VII kept gossip columns full. But her glamorous existence hid a dark secret: she was no comtesse. She was born into abject poverty, raised on a squalid backstreet among the dregs of Parisian society. Yet she transformed herself into an enchantress who possessed a small fortune, three mansions, fabulous carriages, and art the envy of connoisseurs across Europe. A consummate show-woman, she ensured that her life―and even her death―remained shrouded in just enough mystery to keep her audience hungry for more. Spectacularly evoking the sights and sounds of mid- to late nineteenth-century Paris in all its hedonistic glory, Catherine Hewitt’s biography tells, for the first time ever in English, the forgotten story of a remarkable woman who, though her roots were lowly, never stopped aiming high.

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    The Mistress of Paris by Catherine Hewitt

    The Mistress of Paris

    9.7 hrs • 1/24/17 • Unabridged
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  3. 7.2 hrs • 1/10/2017 • Unabridged

    The extraordinary life of the woman behind the beloved children’s classics Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny comes alive in this fascinating biography of Margaret Wise Brown. Margaret’s books have sold millions of copies all over the world, but few people know that she was at the center of a children’s book publishing revolution. Her whimsy and imagination fueled a steady stream of stories, book ideas, songs, and poems and she was renowned for her prolific writing and business savvy, as well as her stunning beauty and endless thirst for adventure. Margaret started her writing career by helping to shape the curriculum for the Bank Street School for Children, making it her mission to create stories that would rise above traditional fairy tales and allowed girls to see themselves as equal to boys. At the same time, she also experimented endlessly with her own writing. Margaret would spend days researching subjects, picking daisies, cloud gazing, and observing nature, all in an effort to precisely capture a child’s sense of awe and wonder as they discovered the world. Clever, quirky, and incredibly talented, Margaret embraced life with passion, lived extravagantly off of her royalties, went on rabbit hunts, and carried on long and troubled love affairs with both men and women. Among them were two great loves in Margaret’s life. One was a gender-bending poet and the ex-wife of John Barrymore. She went by the stage name of Michael Strange and she and Margaret had a tempestuous yet secret relationship, at one point living next door to each other so that they could be together. After the dissolution of their relationship and Michael’s death, Margaret became engaged to a younger man, who also happened to be the son of a Rockefeller and a Carnegie. But before they could marry Margaret died unexpectedly at the age of forty-two, leaving behind a cache of unpublished work and a timeless collection of books that would go on to become classics in children’s literature. Author Amy Gary captures the eccentric and exceptional life of Margaret Wise Brown, and drawing on newly discovered personal letters and diaries, reveals an intimate portrait of a creative genius whose unrivaled talent breathed new life into the literary world.

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    In the Great Green Room by Amy Gary

    In the Great Green Room

    7.2 hrs • 1/10/17 • Unabridged
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  4. 8.1 hrs • 10/17/2016 • Unabridged

    An up-close look at Edith Wilson, a first lady with unequaled responsibilities during her husband’s presidency. After President Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke in the fall of 1919, his wife, First Lady Edith Wilson, began to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the chief executive. Mrs. Wilson had had little formal education and had only been married to President Wilson for four years, yet in the tenuous peace following the end of World War I, she dedicated herself to managing the office of the president, reading all correspondence intended for her bedridden husband. Though her Oval Office authority was acknowledged in Washington circles at the time—one senator called her “the presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man”—her legacy as the first woman president is now largely forgotten. William Hazelgrove’s Madam President is a vivid, engaging portrait of the woman who became the acting president of the United States in 1919, months before women officially won the right to vote.

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    Madam President by William Hazelgrove

    Madam President

    8.1 hrs • 10/17/16 • Unabridged
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  5. 19.4 hrs • 9/27/2016 • Unabridged

    This historically engaging and relevant biography establishes Shirley Jackson as a towering figure in American literature and revives the life and work of a neglected master. Still known to millions primarily as the author of the “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson (1916–1965) has been curiously absent from the mainstream American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense and psychological horror, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America more deeply than anyone. Now, biographer Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author of such classics as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Placing Jackson within an American gothic tradition that stretches back to Hawthorne and Poe, Franklin demonstrates how her unique contribution to this genre came from her focus on “domestic horror.” Almost two decades before The Feminine Mystique ignited the women’s movement, Jackson’s stories and nonfiction chronicles were already exploring the exploitation and the desperate isolation of women, particularly married women, in American society. Franklin’s portrait of Jackson gives us “a way of reading Jackson and her work that threads her into the weave of the world of words, as a writer and as a woman, rather than excludes her as an anomaly” (Neil Gaiman). The increasingly prescient Jackson emerges as a ferociously talented, determined, and prodigiously creative writer in a time when it was unusual for a woman to have both a family and a profession. A mother of four and the wife of the prominent New Yorker critic and academic Stanley Edgar Hyman, Jackson lived a seemingly bucolic life in the New England town of North Bennington, Vermont. Yet, much like her stories, which channeled the occult while exploring the claustrophobia of marriage and motherhood, Jackson’s creative ascent was haunted by a darker side. As her career progressed, her marriage became more tenuous, her anxiety mounted, and she became addicted to amphetamines and tranquilizers. In sobering detail, Franklin insightfully examines the effects of Jackson’s California upbringing, in the shadow of a hypercritical mother, on her relationship with her husband, juxtaposing Hyman’s infidelities, domineering behavior, and professional jealousy with his unerring admiration for Jackson’s fiction, which he was convinced was among the most brilliant he had ever encountered. Based on a wealth of previously undiscovered correspondence and dozens of new interviews, Shirley Jackson―an exploration of astonishing talent shaped by a damaging childhood and turbulent marriage―becomes the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary giant.

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    Shirley Jackson  by Ruth Franklin

    Shirley Jackson

    19.4 hrs • 9/27/16 • Unabridged
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  6. 7.5 hrs • 9/20/2016 • Unabridged

    A son’s search for his mother, a feminist pioneer—and a casualty of her time In London, 1965, a brilliant young woman—a prescient advocate for women’s rights—has just gassed herself to death, leaving behind a suicide note, two young sons, and a soon-to-be-published book: The Captive Wife. No one had ever imagined that Hannah Gavron might take her own life. Beautiful, sophisticated, and swept up in the progressive sixties, she was a promising academic and the wife of a rising entrepreneur. But there was another side to Hannah, as Jeremy Gavron reveals in this searching portrait of his mother. Gavron—who was just four when his mother killed herself—attempts to piece her life together from letters, diaries, photos, and the memories of old acquaintances. Ultimately, he not only uncovers Hannah’s struggle to carve out her place in a man’s world; he examines the suffocating constrictions placed on every ambitious woman in the mid-twentieth century.

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    A Woman on the Edge of Time by Jeremy Gavron

    A Woman on the Edge of Time

    7.5 hrs • 9/20/16 • Unabridged
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  7. 8.7 hrs • 9/6/2016 • Unabridged

    The first biography of arguably the most influential member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, FDR’s de facto chief of staff, who has been misrepresented, mischaracterized, and overlooked throughout history … until now. Widely considered the first female presidential chief of staff, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand was the right-hand woman to Franklin Delano Roosevelt—both personally and professionally—for more than twenty years. Although her official title as personal secretary was relatively humble, her power and influence were unparalleled. Everyone in the White House knew one truth: if you wanted access to Franklin, you had to get through Missy. She was one of his most trusted advisors, affording her a unique perspective on the president that no one else could claim, and she was deeply admired and respected by Eleanor and the Roosevelt children. With unprecedented access to Missy’s family and original source materials, journalist Kathryn Smith tells the captivating and forgotten story of the intelligent, loyal, and clever woman who had a front-row seat to history in the making. The Gatekeeper is a thoughtful, revealing unsung-hero story about a woman ahead of her time, the true weight of her responsibility, and the tumultuous era in which she lived; a long overdue tribute to one of the most important female figures in American history.

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    The Gatekeeper by Kathryn Smith

    The Gatekeeper

    8.7 hrs • 9/6/16 • Unabridged
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  8. 5.8 hrs • 9/6/2016 • Unabridged

    Discover the stories of twelve women who heard the call to settle the west and who came from all points of the globe to begin their journey. As a slave, Clara watched as her husband and children were sold, only to be reunited with her youngest daughter, as a free woman, six decades later. As a young girl, Charlotte hid her gender to escape a life of poverty and became the greatest stagecoach driver that ever lived. As a Native American, Gertrude fought to give her people a voice and to educate leaders about the ways and importance of her culture. These are gripping miniature dramas of good-hearted women, selfless providers, courageous immigrants and migrants, and women with skills too innumerable to list. Many were crusaders for social justice and women’s rights. All endured hardships, overcame obstacles, broke barriers, and changed the world. The author ties the stories of these pioneer women to the experiences of women today with the hope that they will be inspired to live boldly and bravely and to fill their own lives with vision, faith, and fortitude. To live with grit.

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    Frontier Grit by Marianne Monson

    Frontier Grit

    5.8 hrs • 9/6/16 • Unabridged
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  9. 6.1 hrs • 4/26/2016 • Unabridged

    A spirited portrait of the colorful, irrepressible, and iconoclastic American collector who fearlessly advanced the cause of modern art. One of twentieth-century America’s most influential patrons of the arts, Peggy Guggenheim (1898–1979) brought to wide public attention the work of such modern masters as Jackson Pollock and Man Ray. In her time, there was no stronger advocate for the groundbreaking and the avant-garde. Her midtown gallery was the acknowledged center of the postwar New York art scene, and her museum on the Grand Canal in Venice remains one of the world’s great collections of modern art. Yet as renowned as she was for the art and artists she so tirelessly championed, Guggenheim was equally famous for her unconventional personal life and for her ironic, playful desire to shock. Acclaimed bestselling author Francine Prose offers a singular reading of Guggenheim’s life that will enthrall enthusiasts of twentieth-century art, as well as anyone interested in American and European culture and the interrelationships between them. The lively and insightful narrative follows Guggenheim through virtually every aspect of her extraordinary life, from her unique collecting habits and paradigm-changing discoveries to her celebrity friendships, failed marriages, and scandalous affairs. Prose delivers a colorful portrait of a defiantly uncompromising woman who maintained a powerful upper hand in a male-dominated world. She also explores the ways in which Guggenheim’s image was filtered through the lens of insidious anti-Semitism.

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    Peggy Guggenheim by Francine Prose

    Peggy Guggenheim

    6.1 hrs • 4/26/16 • Unabridged
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  10. 26.7 hrs • 11/10/2015 • Unabridged

    In The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty, the critically acclaimed author of Hiding Man (a New York Times Notable book) and Just One Catch, delves deep into the life of distinguished American author and journalist Joan Didion in this, the first printed biography published about her life. Joan Didion lived a life in the public and private eye with her late husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, whom she met while the two were working in New York City, when Didion was at Vogue and Dunne was writing for Time. They became wildly successful writing partners when they moved to Los Angeles and cowrote screenplays and adaptations together. Didion is well known for her literary journalistic style in both fiction and nonfiction. Some of her most notable work includes Slouching towards Bethlehem, Run River, and The Year of Magical Thinking, a National Book Award winner short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize. Daugherty takes listeners on a journey back through time, following a young Didion in Sacramento through to her adult life as a writer. Daugherty interviews those who know and knew her personally while maintaining a respectful distance from the reclusive literary great. The Last Love Song reads like fiction; lifelong fans and listeners learning about Didion for the first time will be enthralled with this impressive tribute.

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    The Last Love Song by Tracy Daugherty

    The Last Love Song

    26.7 hrs • 11/10/15 • Unabridged
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  11. 0 reviews 0 5 5 5 out of 5 stars 5/5
    14.1 hrs • 11/10/2015 • Unabridged

    A new biographical portrait that casts the queen as she saw herself—not as an exceptional woman, but as an exceptional ruler Queen Elizabeth I was all too happy to play on courtly conventions of gender when it suited her “weak and feeble woman’s body” to do so for political gain. But in Elizabeth, historian Lisa Hilton offers ample evidence of why those famous words should not be taken at face value. With new research out of France, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, Hilton’s fresh interpretation is of a queen who saw herself primarily as a Renaissance prince and used Machiavellian statecraft to secure that position. A decade since the last major biography, this Elizabeth breaks new ground and depicts a queen who was much less constrained by her femininity than most treatments claim. For readers of David Starkey and Alison Weir, it will provide a new, complex perspective on Elizabeth’s emotional and sexual life. It’s a fascinating journey that shows how a marginalized, newly crowned queen, whose European contemporaries considered her to be the illegitimate ruler of a pariah nation, ultimately adapted to become England’s first recognizably modern head of state.

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    Elizabeth by Lisa Hilton

    Elizabeth

    14.1 hrs • 11/10/15 • Unabridged
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  12. 0 reviews 0 5 4.5 4 out of 5 stars 4.5/5
    7.7 hrs • 10/6/2015 • Unabridged

    They were the most prominent American family of the twentieth century. The daughter they secreted away made all the difference. Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. And yet, Rosemary was intellectually disabled—a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family. Major new sources—Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, school and doctors’ letters, and exclusive family interviews—bring Rosemary to life as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then, as the family’s standing reached an apex, the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly intractable in her early twenties. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret. Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for nearly twenty years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.

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    Rosemary by Kate Clifford Larson

    Rosemary

    7.7 hrs • 10/6/15 • Unabridged
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  13. 11.2 hrs • 4/8/2014 • Unabridged

    In this inspiring memoir, the award-winning playwright and bestselling author of What Looks like Crazy on an Ordinary Day reminisces on the art of juggling marriage, motherhood, and politics while working to become a successful writer. In addition to being one of the most popular living playwrights in America, Pearl Cleage is a bestselling author with an Oprah Book Club pick and multiple awards to her credit. But there was a time when such stellar success seemed like a dream. In this revelatory and deeply personal work, Cleage takes readers back to the 1970s and ’80s, retracing her struggles to hone her craft amid personal and professional tumult. Though born and raised in Detroit, it was in Atlanta that Cleage encountered the forces that would most shape her experience. Married to Michael Lomax, now head of the United Negro College Fund, she worked with Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor. Things I Should Have Told My Daughter charts not only the political fights but also the pull she began to feel to focus on her own passions, including writing—a pull that led her away from Lomax as she grappled with ideas of feminism and self-fulfillment. This fascinating memoir follows her journey from a columnist for a local weekly to a playwright and Hollywood scriptwriter, an artist at the crossroads of culture and politics whose circle came to include luminaries like Richard Pryor, Avery Brooks, Phylicia Rashad, Shirley Franklin, and Jesse Jackson. By the time Oprah Winfrey picked What Looks like Crazy on an Ordinary Day as a favorite, Cleage had long since arrived as a writer of renown. In the tradition of greats like Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, and Nora Ephron, Cleage’s self-portrait raises women’s confessional writing to the level of great literature.

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    Things I Should Have Told My Daughter by Pearl Cleage

    Things I Should Have Told My Daughter

    11.2 hrs • 4/8/14 • Unabridged
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  14. 12.2 hrs • 1/20/2013 • Unabridged

    Ella Fitzgerald. The name alone conjures up images of the Savoy Ballroom; of the Chick Webb, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie bands; of hot jazz, sweet ballads, and a genuinely unique presence. Ella Fitzgerald, an artist who has been called a national treasure—and no one has disputed the laudation—has captivated an international audience for more than fifty years. Her inimitable voice has been heard in intimate clubs, in concerts, on radio and television, and on countless recordings. First Lady of Song is a celebration of her life and work. In these pages are revived memories of duets with Frank Sinatra, harmonizing with Dinah Shore, and solo triumphs at Carnegie Hall.

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    First Lady of Song by Geoffrey Mark Fidelman

    First Lady of Song

    12.2 hrs • 1/20/13 • Unabridged
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  15. 15.3 hrs • 9/4/2012 • Unabridged

    Published on the fiftieth anniversary of her seminal book, Silent Spring, here is an indelible new portrait of Rachel Carson, founder of the modern environmental movement. She loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries, including the international bestseller The Sea around Us. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world. Rachel Carson began work on Silent Spring in the late 1950s, when a dizzying array of synthetic pesticides had come into use. Leading this chemical onslaught was the insecticide DDT, whose inventor had won a Nobel Prize for its discovery. Effective against crop pests as well as insects that transmitted human diseases such as typhus and malaria, DDT had at first appeared safe. But as its use expanded, alarming reports surfaced of collateral damage to fish, birds, and other wildlife. Silent Spring was a chilling indictment of DDT and its effects, which were lasting, widespread, and lethal. Published in 1962, Silent Spring shocked the public and forced the government to take action—despite a withering attack on Carson from the chemicals industry. The book awakened the world to the heedless contamination of the environment and eventually led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and to the banning of DDT and a host of related pesticides. By drawing frightening parallels between dangerous chemicals and the then-pervasive fallout from nuclear testing, Carson opened a fault line between the gentle ideal of conservation and the more urgent new concept of environmentalism. Elegantly written and meticulously researched, On a Farther Shore reveals a shy yet passionate woman more at home in the natural world than in the literary one that embraced her. William Souder also writes sensitively of Carson’s romantic friendship with Dorothy Freeman and of Carson’s death from cancer in 1964. This extraordinary biography captures the essence of one of the great reformers of the twentieth century.

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    On a Farther Shore by William Souder

    On a Farther Shore

    15.3 hrs • 9/4/12 • Unabridged
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  16. 17.3 hrs • 6/20/2012 • Unabridged

    She was known for her outrageous one-liners, her ruthless theater criticism, her clever verses and bittersweet stories. But there was another side of Dorothy Parker: a private life set on a course of destruction through two divorces, a string of painful affairs, a lifelong problem with alcohol, and several suicide attempts. In this lively, absorbing biography, Marion Meade illuminates both sides of the fascinating Parker: her dark days, as well as her days in the sun at the Algonquin Round Table with Robert Benchley, George Kaufman, and Harold Ross and in Hollywood with S. J. Perelman, William Faulkner, and Lillian Hellman. At the dazzling center of it all, Meade gives us the flamboyant, self-destructive, and brilliant Dorothy Parker.

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    Dorothy Parker by Marion Meade

    Dorothy Parker

    17.3 hrs • 6/20/12 • Unabridged
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