The life narratives in this collection are by ethnically diverse women of energy and ambition - some well known, some forgotten over generations - who confronted barriers of gender, class, race, and sexual difference as they pursued or adapted to adventurous new lives in a rapidly changing America. The engaging selections - from captivity narratives to letters, manifestos, criminal confessions, and childhood sketches - span a hundred years in which women increasingly asserted themselves publicly. Some rose to positions of prominence as writers, activists, and artists; some sought education or wrote to support themselves and their families; some transgressed social norms in search of new possibilities. Each woman's story is strikingly individual, yet the brief narratives in this anthology collectively chart bold new visions of women's agency.
Sidonie Smith is Martha Guernsey Colby Collegiate Professor of English and Women's Studies and chair of the Department of English at the University of Michigan. Julia Watson is associate professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University. Their several previous books include Reading Autobiography and Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader.