Critical Context

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.