The Boundaries of Her Body

Although author and civil rights attorney Debran Rowland offers readers a compelling picture of the course of women’s rights in the United States, her book, The Boundaries of Her Body: The Troubling History of Women’s Rights In America, forcefully illustrates not only how difficult the struggle for equality has been for American women, but also how much more work remains to be done before women are no longer treated as children in need of the protective “wisdom” of their male counterparts. This book serves as a strong companion for Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991). What makes Rowland’s book so valuable is the attention she gives throughout to the legal struggles engaged in and endured by American women throughout the country’s history.

As an attorney, Rowland not only demonstrates her breadth of knowledge concerning American women’s rights, but she also does an excellent job of making the often confusing tangle of court cases and legal opinions accessible to a general reader. By doing so, Rowland provides a compelling and often unsettling portrait of the many ways in which women and girls have been treated unfairly, sometimes cruelly, in the United States. She covers topics such as motherhood, fertility, pregnancy and reproductive rights, rape, battering and other forms of abuse, workplace issues, and AIDS.

The Boundaries of Her Body begins with the early history of European settlement of America, showing how what happens to American women and girls today has its roots in European ideas about the relative importance and power of men and women. The book devotes the majority of its coverage to the last one-hundred-plus years; as such it provides an invaluable social history of contemporary gender politics. Although lengthy, The Boundaries of Her Body is well-worth a reader’s time.