Saturday, March 13, 2010

Women in Folklore Month: Hearts of Fire

Today's book is Hearts of Fire: Great Women of American Lore and Legend by Kemp Battle.

Book description from publisher:

The author of Great American Folklore (more than 160,000 copies sold) returns with a collection of hundreds of fascinating stories and legends that celebrate the inner life and outer dynamism of women that illuminate the role of women in American history.

Review from Library Journal:

Battle (Great American Folklore, 1986) has collected vignettes and stories of women from all aspects and time periods of American life, from pre-Columbian Native Americans to Vietnam War nurses, from the average woman to the celebrated (e.g., Mahalia Jackson and Amelia Earhart). Battle allows the women to speak in their own words. Thus, we hear the fear in the voice of the woman who gave birth along the westward trail and the uneasy respect of a newspaper describing the hanging of "Cattle Kate." This superb collection is marred only by the lack of citations for the entries. Those wishing to read more or to check the veracity of what is published are left to their own devices. For public libraries.

Review from Booklist:

When Battle's daughter asked him why men "seemed to have all the fun" in his earlier work, Great American Folklore, he felt as if a light had been turned on. Why, he wondered, hadn't he come across stories of women, true American heroines, in his research? Dismayed and curious, Battle went back to work, and this time around managed to rescue a gratifying number of lively, inspiring, and sadly neglected stories of courageous and independent women pioneers, doctors, midwives, journalists, outlaws, teachers, artists, spiritual leaders, and activists, many of whom were also mothers and wives. Determined to go beyond the saccharine renditions of the lives of famous women, such as the much romanticized Pocahontas, or our oversimplified image of Molly Pitcher (whose real name was Mary Ludwig), Battle sought original sources and discovered a wealth of oral history, letters, diaries, and memoirs. Thus armed, he retells the stories of well-known women with great flair, but it is the unknown, unsung heroines, both noble and freewheeling, who capture the imagination most in this colorful pageant of champions.

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