Florence Howe, one of the foremothers of women’s studies and a co-founder of the Feminist Press, finally offers readers her own life story. And what a life it has been — from her working-class Jewish girlhood in Depression- era Brooklyn, through her college years at Hunter and Smith, her freedom-school teaching in Mississippi, her years at Goucher and the College at Old Westbury developing the pedagogy of women’s studies, her decision to branch into publishing, and her tireless commitment to take women’s studies international— Howe has packed many lives into one. Even if she had done only a fraction of this, her close friendships with some of the most creative feminists of the last half-century— Tillie Olsen and Grace Paley, in particular— would be worth a memoir. A longtime editor of other women’s works, Howe’s own prose is clear and engaging. She’s not afraid to be selfcritical, pointing out her lax financial accounting and other “unprofessional” missteps in the early years of the Press, and her ambivalent feelings about family members. While the narrative is mostly chronological, occasional thematic chapters (on her various marriages, her mother’s last years, her close friendships) work as intimate asides, drawing the reader closer. As a detailed history of some inner-circles of modern American feminism, this memoir is of value to historians; for women of any age, who know ‘the personal is political,’ it’s a must read. Halftones, index.
Bettina Berch, author of the recent biography, From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezierska, teaches part-time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.