Boylston clearly admires Barton’s character and accomplishments. Her biography paints a flattering portrait of a woman who battled and overcame numerous ob-stacles—internal and external—over her entire life, a woman whose dedication, determination, and devotion to others saved lives and shaped history.

Boylston uses incidents and anecdotes to advance the narrative and to illuminate character. She favors action scenes, especially those showing Barton surmounting obstacles or opposition by her wits or determination. Barton’s work on Civil War battlefields is described in detail, enhanced by numerous vignettes illustrating her courage, ingenuity, and tirelessness. In contrast, her administrative work and periods in more settled locations receive only slight mention.

Boylston also streamlines and simplifies situations, keeping Barton ever at the center of the biography. Barton thus becomes the prime mover, and those who helped her—politically or otherwise—assume distinctly secondary roles. Similarly, other elements of Barton’s life, such as her friendship with Susan B. Anthony and her association with women’s suffrage, receive little or no attention. The biography also skirts the issue of Barton’s recurring depressions, mentioning them only in connection with the deaths of family members. (Boylston does, however, observe that Barton’s spirits usually lifted and her physical illnesses abated when she found compelling work to be...

(The entire section is 447 words.)