May 2016 Articles

The Reading Room


Terrible VirtueEllen Feldman ’64, M.A. ’67, found a way to put her Bryn Mawr history major—and her fascination with the past—to good use. Feldman writes historical novels that, like her most recent offering about Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, imagine the private lives of real public figures. The Boston Globe has praised her ability to forge “archival records, court records, and first-person accounts [into novels] that succeed overwhelmingly as works of imagination … distilled with great subtlety and wit.”

Terrible Virtue tells the story of Sanger’s lifelong mission to make birth control legal and accessible in the U.S. The novel traces Sanger’s life from the early 20th century when she served a prison term for opening the country’s first birth control clinic to the 1960s when she played a key role in the development of the Pill. A heroic and often ruthless figure, Sanger dedicated her life to a cause that, while costing her and those closest to her dearly, nonetheless transformed the lives of women and shaped the sexual landscape we inhabit today.

Feldman’s earlier titles include Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the 2009 Orange Prize for fiction; The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank (2005), which imagines the life that Peter van Pels, who hid in the attic with Frank, might have led post-WWII; and Lucy (2003), which focuses on Lucy Mercer and her affair with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


Civil_WarsDescribed as “riveting” In Jill Lepore’s New York Times Book Review, The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe is the first biography to understand the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic as a feminist pioneer who had to fight for her creative freedom.

In her telling, literary critic and Princeton emeritus professor Elaine Showalter ’62 presents Howe as having “the subversive intellect of an Emily Dickinson, the political and philosophical interests of an Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the passionate emotions of a Sylvia Plath.”

An heiress and aspiring poet, Howe made a miserable marriage to Samuel Gridley Howe, an internationally acclaimed pioneer in the education of the blind and a husband singularly unsympathetic to his wife’s talents and aspirations. Today known almost exclusively for Battle Hymn, Howe was a writer through and through. Among her works are Passion-Flowers, a volume of poetry published without her husband’s knowledge, and a novel, unpublished in her time, about a scholar who lives sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman.

The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe is Showalter’s 10th book. A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx was awarded the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism. Her writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, People, and Vogue.

More Alumnae Titles

Fraud in the Family, Anne Reed ’69. BookBaby 2016. Someone defrauded the government, and the IRS thinks it was Dr. Ray Sinclair. No one suspects the true culprit.

A Companion to Etruscans, edited by Sinclair Bell and Alexandra Carpino ’86. Wiley-Blackwell 2016. A rich selection of innovative scholarship on the Etruscans, whose civilization flourished in central Italy for most of the first millennium BCE and helped shape the ancient Mediterranean, European, and classical worlds.

Pugs of the Frozen North, Sarah McIntyre ’99 and Philip Reeve. Oxford University Press (UK) 2015, Random House (USA) 2016. Children and adults alike will love this illustrated book about an Arctic race to the top of the world, starring 66 pugs!

Belonging in Genesis: Biblical Israel and the Politics of Identity Formation, Amanda Mbuvi ’98. Baylor University Press 2016. Mbuvi provides a rigorous challenge to social hierarchies influenced by the Westernization of the Bible. Her alternative narrative seeks to recover the Bible’s novel and iconoclastic understanding of identity formation and human interrelationship and provide a theological vision for transforming our fractured world.

Volunteering for a Cause: Gender, Faith, and Charity in Mexico from the Reform to the Revolution, Silvia Marina Arrom ’71. University of New Mexico Press 2016. Arrom challenges widespread assumptions about the role of Catholicism in Mexican history through an examination of two related Catholic charities.

Given to the Goddess: South Indian Devadasis and the Sexuality of Religion, Lucinda Ramberg ’84. Duke University Press 2014. This award-winning ethnography examines sacred prostitution and its reform in South India, specifically the ongoing practice of marrying children to goddesses.

First Light of Dawn: An Endearing Hermit’s Reflections, Sister Thelma B. Steiger, Ph.D. ’81. This collection of poetry examines the spirituality of one’s inner life, nature, relationships, and more.

Forensic Psychiatry: A Lawyer’s Guide,

Vivian Shnaidman ’84. Academic Press 2016. This text provides legal professionals with tools to identify mentally ill clients and to navigate the psychiatric information and language in reports and testimony.