Abstracts of Books
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Abstracts of Books Elliot Ashkenazi, ed. The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon: Growing Up in New Orleans, 1861-1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995. xiv + 458 pp.; ill. ISBN 0-8071-1968-7 (cl). Chronicles the Ufe of a young Jewish woman. The Solomons were a wealthy merchant family of Sephardic origin who supported the Confederacy. Clara's diary provides insight into this relatively small community and its experiences during the tribulations of the war years, particularly the occupation of New Orleans by Union forces. Ashkenazi's introduction offers useful background material on the Solomon family, the New Orleans Sephardic community and general conditions in the city during the Civil War. The diary will be of considerable interest to those working on Southern, women's, or Jewish history of the nineteenth century. Mary McCune Daniel Bornstein and Roberto Rusconi, eds. Women and Religion in Medieval and Renaissance Italy. Margery J. Schneider, trans. Chicago and London : University of Chicago Press, 1996. χ + 334 pp. ISBN 0-2260-6637-1 (cl); 0-2260-6639-8 (pb). Bornstein and Rusconi present eleven essays by contemporary ItaUan scholars exploring the world of medieval and Renaissance Italian women religious , who lacked authority in legal, family and ecclesiastical matters, yet were extraordinarily active in the church-dominated society of Italy. The editors argue that Italian historiography is often overlooked by English-speaking scholars, although the role of Italian women in ecclesiastical history is pivotal. Three essayists examine regional groups of women religious in Tuscany, Padua, and UmbrÃ-a, whUe another discusses the Poor Clares. One writer explores the canonization proceedings of Clare of Montefalco. Another scholar examines the legend of Maria of Venice as a role model. The remaining essays address aspects of female spirituality such as: the sermons of St. Bernardino on the treatment of wives, mysticism and iconography, and the typology of sixteenth-century female saints. Rusconi's afterword offers suggestions for primary sources, including nun's writings, canonization proceedings, and notarial protocols. Lorraine Abraham © 1997 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 9 No. 2 (Summer) 1997 Abstracts of Books 193 Charlotte G. Borst. Catching Babies: The Professionalization of Childbirth, 18701920 . Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995. xi + 254 pp.; ill.; maps. ISBN 0-674-10262-2 (cl). Between 1900 and 1930, midwife-assisted births dropped from over half of all births to less than 15 percent. Conversely, physician-assisted births skyrocketed. Why this happened, after centuries of successful midwifeassisted births, is a complex question. Borst uses historical demographics and social science methodology to look at changing methods of midwife and physician training in four Wisconsin counties at the turn of the century , as well as attitudes about gender, immigration, and class culture that affected contemporary perceptions about midwives and physicians. She concludes that Americans were increasingly more trustful of the "scientific " methods of predominantly male doctors, and distrustful of midwives, many of whom were immigrant or African-American women. Contrary to many students of women's history, Borst asserts that physicians did not push midwives out of the medical profession in a mad grab to assert male authority and economic hegemony. Rather, parturient women freely chose to be assisted by a physician whom they believed would make childbirth safer and less painful than the traditional midwife. Heather Lee Miller William WeUs Brown. Clotel: Or The President's Daughter, ed. Joan E. Cashin. 1853. Reprint, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1996. xxiv +191 pp. ISBN 1-56324804 -2 (pb). Clotel, originally pubUshed by WiUiam Wells Brown in 1853, demonstrates the potential of merging history and fiction as well as engaging a variety of important issues related to African-American, women's, and Southern history. Clotel is the reputed illegitimate offspring of President Thomas Jefferson and an enslaved woman he owned. After being abandoned by her prestigious father, Clotel eventually becomes the lover of a white man, who also abandons her. Deciding to escape slavery, she succeeds, but is later recaptured. She commits suicide rather than return to bondage. Clotel is reminiscent of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and explores a number of provocative themes. Marital and gender relations, the hypocrisy and brutalities of the peculiar institution, and the particular burdens...


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