The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas

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Alfred A. Knopf, 1994 - Education - 526 pages
M. Carey Thomas (1857-1935) was an extraordinary woman whose career spanned the Victorian and modern worlds.
Her story is superbly told in a biography that resonates with the complicated interplay between he necessarily hidden private life and her eminently visible and successful public life as president of Bryn Mawr College, as a founder of the Johns Hopkins medical school and the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, as a leader in the women's suffrage movement, and as the preeminent spokeswoman for education around the turn of the century. Behind close doors, however, Carey Thomas was by no means the "proper Quaker daughter" many of her contemporaries assumed her to be. She was a freethinker. She was an ardent admirer of Swinburne, Rossetti, an the Pre-Raphaelites. She was a passionate woman whose lovers were women.
In rich detail and with insight and balance, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz recounts a life lived outside the bounds of nineteenth-century convention. She show us the child overcoming a life-threatening and disfiguring burn; the schoolgirl deciding to devote he life to scholarship -- and ultimately becoming one of the first American women to study for a doctorate in Germany. We see the Cornell woman -- in an age when marriage eliminated the possibility of a serious career -- promising her parents to avoid all encounter with men students; the young educator outwitting college trustees to develop her dreams of a rigorous education for women. Throughout, as the book reconstructs Thomas' consciousness and her understanding of herself as a woman of passion, Horowitz provides fresh insights into emotional and sexual life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Carey Thomas was complexity itself. She was at once visionary and narrow, warm and hard, spontaneous and calculating. She demanded everything of the world and of herself. She brought equal intensity to her professional responsibilities and her personal relations. She lived at fever pitch.
Helen Horowitz has given us a brilliant portrait of the vivid and sui generis woman who -- in a world that held no models for her -- created herself, full scale, in the grand manner.

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User Review  - NML_dc - LibraryThing

This is an excellently written and researched book which you will enjoy immensely if you are a history person (I am not). I read it mostly out of duty as an alumna and out of curiosity as Bryn Mawr ... Read full review


User Review  - Kirkus

A lengthy biography of educator M. Carey Thomas (18571935). Horowitz (History & American Studies/Smith; Campus Life, 1987, etc.) presents Thomas as a ``bundle of conflicting aspirations,'' a woman ... Read full review


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About the author (1994)

Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Professor of History and American Studies at Smith College, is the author of Culture and City, Alma Mater, and Campus Life.

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