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Duncan authors book on women’s rights activists

Friday, November 21, 2008JOHNSON CITY — Dr. Joyce Duncan, a lecturer of Service-Learning in East Tennessee State University’s Division of Cross-Disciplinary Studies, is the author of Shapers of the Great Debate on Women’s Rights, a book that has just been released by Greenwood Press. The biographical dictionary is part of the “Shapers of the Great Debate” series edited by Peter B. Levy.

The volume is divided into the three historical “waves” of progress in women’s rights. The first-wave activists fought for a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote; the second wave battled for equity in hiring and salary, for the right of a woman to decide if she wished to give birth, and for political acknowledgment of equality; and the third wave, now in progress, urges a more inclusive movement to give voice to women of color and to lesbians and addresses other issues.

The book features frequently recognized names, such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gloria Steinem, and Betty Friedan, along with Victoria Woodhull, Margaret Fuller, Amelia Bloomer, Wilma Mankiller, Phyllis Chesler, and Mary Daly. Contemporary counterparts are also included, among them Katie Roiphe, Rebecca Walker, and Cherri Moraga.

The work is organized into a historic overview of each major period with longer entries on 42 women and short biographies on 32 others.

The women selected for inclusion are rhetoricians, academics, writers, politicians, religious figures, actors and minor celebrities, diverse in their approaches and their lifestyles but with the common cause of securing a measure of equality and recognition for themselves and all women.

Duncan’s research was motivated by conversations with young women among her students. “They have no collective memory,” she says, “of an era when women could not own property or money, when they had little decision-making power regarding the upbringing of their children, when they were discouraged or forbidden from seeking education or a profession, when they were silenced in public and even in houses of worship, when they were chastised for putting pen to paper or offering their opinion and when they were powerless to change their destiny because they had no political clout, no power of the vote.”

The book is currently available for purchase at for $75.


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