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The Essential Feminist Reader

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  778 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Including: Susan B. Anthony, Simone de Beauvoir, W.E.B. Du Bois, Hélène Cixous, Betty Friedan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Emma Goldman, Guerrilla Girls, Ding Ling, Audre Lorde, John Stuart Mill, Christine de Pizan, Adrienne Rich, Margaret Sanger, Huda Shaarawi, Sojourner Truth, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Virginia Woolf.

The Essential Feminist Reader is the first anthology to p
Paperback, 496 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by Modern Library (first published 2007)
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4.14  · 
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Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women, non-fiction
What I take from this book is the fact that the road has been pretty long for womens rights. And there is still a longer way to go. Considering the fact that in Latin America there are still many issues that have no resolution whatsoever, legally, like the fact that abortion is still illegal in most countries, and the violence against women is a daily reality, where at least in Mexico, it usually has no consequence. The question of why this is, is something which feminists and any sensitive pers ...more
Nice read...I like how it doesn't solely concentrate on Western feminism, or on just the Second/Third wave. There is much to learn here about African/Chinese/Japanese/Swedish/French/German/Indian/South American feminist movements and revolts. Of course the classics are contained, such as de Beauvoir, Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Audre Lorde, Betty Friedan, etc. I'd have liked to have seen Valerie Solanas' oft-overlooked S.C.U.M. Manifesto included, but one can't ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, nonfiction
This was an informative introduction to feminism, but it was difficult to glean much depth from the excerpts provided, as they were shortened and cut down to about 3-6 pages each. Additionally, many of the excerpts were repetitive since the anthology featured a broad number of writers/theorists, all promoting the same message of gender equality. Still, as the passages were placed chronologically by publication date, it was interesting to see how the priorities of the women's rights movement chan ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent collection of historical feminist essays, articles, speeches, etc. And not solely focused on Western feminists and white feminism.
Araminta Matthews
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Several old favorites. I was particularly excited to revisit Engels and Cixous. I was also excited to experience my first encounter with "flowers in the mirror" by Li Ju-Chen, which is a satirical story written in China in 1800 that Imagens a gender role reversal and demonstrates the absurdity of foot binding by having it occur to a man in order to please the emperor, who is a woman. Without a doubt, though, the best piece of writing in this entire text with what I have not encountered before, b ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing

The Essential Feminist Reader is a collection of feminist essays edited and compiled by Estelle B. Freedman, a U.S. historian specializing in women's history at Stanford University.

The essays in the book span time and geography. We begin with an essay published in France in 1405 by Christine de Pizan, who lamented, "in my folly I considered myself most unfortunate because God has made me inhabit a female body;" we conclude with a statement issued in 2004 by a women's group from Afghanistan, cele
Chaunceton Bird
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Generally, good stuff. Would have liked more articles from the last twenty years, but this is an excellent collection of historical feminist writing.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: important, ladies
I dunno how this could get fewer than five stars given the quality of the documents it contains. The stuff from the second half of the 20th century is particularly impressive, but all of it very effectively conveys the status and/or ideals of women in the relevant time period (depressingly, many of the goals overlap, no matter the century from which the documents emerge).
Apr 19, 2009 rated it liked it
A good anthology of feminist writings across a broad spectrum of time, location, and experience. It includes the proto-feminist writings of medieval and renaissance monks, nuns, and laypersons, many well-known 1st, 2nd, and 3rd wave writings, as well as some lesser-known material from a variety of locations and perspectives. While the selection of writings leaned towards liberal-feminism, I appreciated the inclusion of radical and black feminist tracts and manifestos, as well as a good amount of ...more
Susan Bazzett-Griffith
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I completely agree with the title of this book-- the writings included in it are, indeed, "essential". That said, I'd read many of them beforehand, and so I can't give it more than a three and a half star rating because I didn't REALLY enjoy it reading some of these essays a second time. On the other hand, this book would be absolutely perfect as a primer/ introduction to feminist thought for a college course, and therefore, the book definitely serves its purpose as an excellent refer ...more
Dec 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
This collection did a satisfying job incorporating works from a variety of contexts and writers (i.e,. authors weren't all white American/Western European upper-class women). I was particularly pleased when essays would refer to works I had read earlier in the collection.

Although, many speeches began to sound repetitive. I would have enjoyed more works of satire, fiction, and poetry to mix it up.
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
This serves as a good introduction to feminism in that it covers a wide variety of topics and forms of feminism. I was surprised that it featured documents dating back to the 15th century. Also, it provides documents from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, so there are other perspectives that from a western point of view.
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: girl-power, interest
p. 200-204 WILPF women's Internation League of Peace and Freedom warned that the Treaty of Versailles would lead to more wars...among other things.

p. 205 Dubois ...woman must have lifework and economic indepence...and the right of motherhood [right to choose] at her own discretion=education, career, sexual freedom and birth control

p. 215 Margaret Sanger "Any means of freedom which will enable women to think and live for themselves first will be attacked as immoral by...the church and society.

Luz  C. Johnson
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
The fact that this anthology contains selections of feminists around that world –like the Mexican Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (seventeen century) or the Brazilian Francisca Diniz (nineteen century), or the Committee on the Status of Women in India (twentieth century), and not just your predominant standard English and U.S. feminist thinkers –becomes then an invaluable resource for everyone interested in the history of women.

When a group of outstanding Canadian women –among them Margaret Atwood, fo
Muhammad Murad
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have superficially read its different chapters.
In the introduction, Freedman gives a comprehensive definition of feminism that it is the belief that women have same human capacities as men. It is the collection/selection of 64 different essays, poems, fictions, dramas, speeches and other forms of political and ideological ideas related to feminism. Freedman selected ideas from different parts of the world in the chronological order starting with Christine De Pizan's, "The Book of the cities o
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Katt by: Salena Parker
I'm not a fan of anthologies like this, but my main objection to these is the ways in which they edit lengthy texts. What can I say, except that I like to read a work entirely. With that caveat, I think The Essential Feminist Reader is an excellent collection of works, and it goes a long way to not only introduce the reader to the essential works of feminist literature. When you sit down to read this collection, you realize just how interconnected race, class, and sexuality are to feminist theor ...more
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
Exactly what it says on the cover, this covers some of the most revolutionary literature in the women's movement from Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, with lots more besides. I appreciated that this was a mainstream feminism book that did not ignore the intersectionality of racism and sexism and that plenty of texts pertaining to that were included.
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great selection of texts, not just focused on modern 20th century feminism, but spanning hundreds of years. It's actually quite jarring to see that, despite the many advances of feminism, women still face many of the same issues that not only our mothers and grandmothers faced but also our great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers. There's also a great emphasis on intersectionality and the importance of black and non-western feminism, which I think is crucial to third wave feminism and the ...more
Ian Cattanach
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it. It had some old (1800) essays, and such. Overall it gave me a a Continental philosophy, and whole timeline of the feminist movement. It is important as man I think to be humbled by some of the struggles of this other gender that is half of the world. We talk about racial oppression but a race is usually under 50% of the population. But when 50% of the world is basically oppressed it raises some questions. This book will deliver some answers about what we can do, and how you can cha ...more
Heather VanWaldick
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a good, comprehensive intro to feminist writing and theory, and has been a helpful jumping-off point for me. I haven't read much feminist writing, but the backslide we've seen in the last couple of years with regard to reproductive rights has made me want to read more, and become more informed about feminism and where it stands today. Also, I enjoy reading this kind of thing at work, and talking about it with my fellow female coworkers, because it really annoys the sexist asshole at the ...more
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
This is a wonderful compilation of various feminist essays, speeches, sometimes art. I haven't read a whole lot of feminist theory or ideology before this, so I felt like the book has greatly expanded my understanding of the subject.

My only problem with it is that the passages are very short, three-four pages max on most of them. Which works if you want a quick glance over the history of feminism, but if you're expecting something more in depth, it'll be necessary to follow this up with other b
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminist-books
The book is a collection of excerpts from writings on the need for gender equality from all over the world throughout history.

This book introduced me to feminist writings that I probably never would've known existed, and it took only the important excerpts from the books which some people might not like, but I thought it was good because it left room for the other writings.

Overall, I loved it so much, and it made me really want to read the full versions of the books that were included.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book for anyone who wants an outline of the basics of feminist history (and a bit of theory). Highly recommend to anyone trying to get a sense of which feminist writers from pre-2004 are most interesting to them personally, just as a jumping-off point. These snippets definitely don't go in-depth (and they aren't supposed to), so this really isn't THE FEMINIST BOOK that some people might assume it to be. That being said, I found the introductions incredibly useful and interesting.
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was required for my Women and Gender Studies course, and we read extensively some of the excerpts from it for class. I really wanted to read the whole entire book, including the chapters we didn't cover - and after 2 years, I finally did it!!

It can be dense, so you will want to read it in short chunks - but all in all, it is a really great introduction to feminism and includes a global perspective throughout history on the issue, along with relevant historical contexts!
Nov 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-sciences
This was a pretty splendid collection of many classic feminist texts, along with some minor treasures, particularly the Middle Eastern excerpts. I only wish Freedman had stuck to non-fiction pieces, as the utopian novel excerpts were unentertaining, mind-numbing, overly obvious pieces of literary crap.
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Haven't read all of the essays, just the ten or so I needed for school but it, first of all, is very broad - not just western feminism, and spans a large period of time, and spans a large swath of ideas. It stops, if you're wondering, around 2004, so while it won't do you much good for the essential modern writings (which is really more news) it is excellent background material.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-history
Wonderful collection of Feminist writings with speeches, short stories, excerpts from novels and government documents. Spanning from 1405 and ending in 2004. There is something in there for everyone. The best part of this book was being introduced to some of the very first writing in the feminist genre and hearing voices that spoke out on by behalf centuries before I was born.
elle i
Interesting cross-section of feminist lit. Though I appreciated the breadth and variety of the material, I found it very difficult to read to cover to cover as the salient topics are repeated from culture to culture. I will pick this up again in the future as a reference.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent collection of historic feminist texts from around the world, not just Western Europe and North America. It showcases a range of perspectives from a variety of cultures and creeds. All told, it’s a great anti-dote to the one-dimensional stereotypes.
Megan Sanks
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This book did a great job of including women of color, women who don't identify as heterosexual, and those that aren't from the Western world. I also enjoyed that a few pieces by male-identified writers were included. It offered a wide range of opinions and ideas from a long span of time.
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Estelle Freedman is an American historian. Her research has explored the history of women and social reform, including feminism and women's prison reform, as well as the history of sexuality, including the history of sexual violence.