In the introductory chapter, the Weinbergs state that dissent is an important part of American life. The selected dissenters are profiled because they were unique heroes with a willingness to suffer rather than to tolerate the status quo. Some Dissenting Voices is clearly a book intended for the adolescent reader. The point of view is clearly one of a middle ground—the authors neither omit information nor exaggerate it. The facts have been weighed, but the Weinbergs do not sit in judgment of these dissenters. The emphasis of the authors is on the environment in which these dissenters lived and how it influenced these heroes’ seemingly independent decisions.
While the Weinbergs present these dissenters as movers and shakers, they were clearly not anarchists. This approach depicts Steffens as a curious, persistent, and determined individual who inspired trust and confidence. Steffens is portrayed as the hero in his quest to find the cause of political corruption in the United States, even when he incurred the anger of President Theodore Roosevelt when Steffens exposed the corruption of a senator who was the friend of the president. Thirty years after his death, Steffens was honored for his muckraking by Sigma Delta Chi, the professional journalism fraternity.
Debs traveled across the United States in a campaign train called the Red Special, which was so named to emphasize his dislike of capitalism. His advocacy for railroad...
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The Weinbergs’ book covers 105 years of American history and the lives of six dissenters who were a part of that history. During their lives, the fourteen-hour workday was shortened, child labor laws appeared, the rights of women factory workers were protected, and labor organizations became a powerful force in the United States. During the life of Steffens, Americans developed a fascination with the exposing of political corruption. Debs lived and died as an advocate for liberty, freedom, and equality. Darrow’s oratorical skills gave him power, a power that he used to make the world better for all races, colors, and creeds. Addams was a woman who sought to share the riches of life with the poor and who opposed war and advocated disarmament. Ingersoll was a free-thinking agnostic whose career was spent defending those who attacked orthodox religion and a literal interpretation of the Bible. These dissenters were the conscience of their times; they gave others the courage to act and think as they did. The goal of their dissension was the building of a greater society, and many of the issues that they faced remained relevant decades later. Their actions moved a society to change, which is echoed in the upheaval of the 1960’s and 1970’s, when this book was published.
Some Dissenting Voices presents six nineteenth and early twentieth century dissenters. The Weinbergs present each of them as people who profoundly affected the lives of all with whom they came in contact. This personal and historical account is invaluable for history students seeking to understand the people and the events of this 105-year period in the United States.