(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Century of Struggle is one of the seminal works about the history of women in the United States, and one of the author’s major strengths is her clear, concise, and straightforward narrative style. Beginning with an introduction in the Colonial and Revolutionary eras with such figures as Anne Hutchinson, Mercy Otis Warren, and Abigail Adams, Flexner populates her story with hundreds of women from the early nineteenth century to 1920, detailing their efforts and accomplishments. Some of her many characters were relatively well known when the work was published—for example, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony—but many figures were not. Augusta Lewis, the first president of the Women’s Typographical Union No. 1, was hardly a household name, and Ida B. Wells and Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, African American activists for both racial and gender rights, were likewise excluded from books on American history. Their stories and many others are successfully re-created by Flexner out of the past.

In Century of Struggle, Flexner attempted two major goals that were not necessarily compatible. First, she tried to be as inclusive as possible in her history of American women. Educators, abolitionists, nurses, doctors, lawyers, writers, editors, labor activists, community leaders, the middle classes, the working classes, women of European background, and African Americans occupy her pages. Given the magnitude of her task,...

(The entire section is 602 words.)