Laurel Thatcher Ulrich reads from her recent book, Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, in this episode of the Making History Podcast. She offers selections from the Introduction as well as examples of Amazons and other female warriors. Following her reading, Ulrich discusses the challenges of writing a book that surveys a wide swath of history.
From a Booklist review:
“Ulrich never could have imagined that a comment she made in a scholarly article in 1976 would end up emblazoned on T-shirts, buttons, and coffee mugs. With that immortal line as the title of her latest inquiry into overlooked aspects of women’s lives, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian focuses on three accomplished women who behaved badly according to the standards of their times. She presents a fascinating profile of Christine de Pizan, the remarkable fourteenth-century author of The Book of the City of Ladies, a novel that advocates for women’s education. Picking up the thread of Pizan’s recounting of the myth of the Amazons, Ulrich portrays real-life women warriors throughout the ages, including today’s women soldiers in Iraq. Ulrich provides a bracing answer to Virginia Woolf’s pointed question––If Shakespeare had an equally talented sister, what would her life have been like?––after scrutinizing and shrewdly interpreting court documents of the time. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is the catalyst for a far-reaching analysis of the abolition and women’s rights movements. Ultimately, Ulrich amends her famous bon mot: Well-behaved women make history when they do the unexpected, when their actions produce records, and when later generations care.”
Coming next week in the second part of this interview, Laurel speaks about the field of women’s history, offers advice on choosing a dissertation topic, and discusses her writing of A Midwife’s Tale.