On Understanding Women

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Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated, 1968 - History - 541 pages
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I read this book about three decades ago when I was first educating myself in women's history. Beard starts back in pre-historic times telling us that in hunter-gatherer communities the population was women and children. Men after about age twelve left the communities and were a part of roving bands of men who occaisionally visited the small communities keeping the population growing. Because the societies were women and children, women were responsible for the survival of the community; they knew where the foodstuffs were at which time of the year and how to get to them; they knew where the water sources were; they knew where the shelters were.
According to Beard it is very likely that women started the agricultural period of civilization. It is likely that coming back to a previously visited site women may have recognized that in a spot where children had spilled a basket of grains into the mud three months ago, grain was now growing in that mud. Could they do that deliberately? She also states that "women launched civilization." a woman would have made that basket that the grain was spilled from. A woman would have sung lullabies to comfort children, drawn pictures for them on cave walls - women's palm prints are visible in the famous cave paintings. Once they were controlling their agriculture, women may have begun a rythmic "work song" to make the work of planting more enjoyable. Women, who made whatever garments were being designed and made, woud have been the persons who embellished them, adding stones (beads), feathers, fringe, etc.
Beard moves on through history to the 20th century, adding information about women to the story. She writes in a clear, easily read, yet scholarly way. There was controversy that she does not footnote her writing. As of today, that doesn't matter much, her information can be readily checked for scources and corroboration with the use of the internet.
This is a great introduction to a survey of women's history. It should be followed up with the reading of more specific eras and people, but it's a good start. Her "Women As a Force in History" is a good second survey of women's history read.


The Symphony of Life
as Aspects and Fragments Fragmentism in Practice
Chief of the Textile Industry The Early Providers

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