As the title implies, each of the selected women included in Growing Up Female in America makes reference to her childhood or early adulthood. Merriam’s book is therefore ideal for adolescent readers, who may find themselves comparing and contrasting their own lives with those of the women about whom they are reading. Many of the women write about their nonconformity and rebellion against aspects of society that oppress them, including family restrictions and expectations. Others describe more primal experiences, such as the onset of menstruation and the loss of virginity. As Merriam points out in her introduction, these accounts of women’s lives are vital if teachers are ever to “redress the falsities of our textbooks” and if students are to see some of the striking similarities between their own lives and those experienced by women in the past.
The use of autobiography to shed light on the history of North American women is a powerful technique. It is unlikely that biographies will be written for several of the women included in Growing Up Female in America, and because history has affected more nonnotables than notables, the day-to-day account of ordinary lives becomes priceless in understanding the times in which these women lived. Readers may be persuaded to see themselves—and what they are permitted or not permitted to do—in a historical sense. These individual autobiographies also take the specific details of...
(The entire section is 598 words.)