Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I'm typically not one for historical non-fiction. At all. However the title of this book caught my eye and it turned out to be worth the read. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich offers interesting vignettes that detail women in history who were "well-behaved" and therefore overlooked.

Cotton Mather called them "the hidden ones." They never preached or sat in a deacon's bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard. Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven't been. Well-behaved women seldom make history.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's argues the women who didn't try to make history but did were the women who changed the face of female possibilites and feminism. Ulrich's goal was to uncover these well-behaved women's history and tell it. This book is well-researched and included clever anecdotes that make the book accessible - even to readers like me who don't often read historical non-fiction. My favorite section was the one entitled "Slaves in the Attic" and detailed the lesser known stories of Harriet Tubman, Harriet Powell and Harriet Jacobs; women who all contributed to 19th century feminism in their own unique way. 

Harriet Tubman, 1869 woodcut

While I did enjoy the book enough, I wouldn't say it was great. I found some sections dull repetitive. The overall message was inspiring, but the delivery lacked a certain punch. As I've mentioned, I haven't read much historical non-fiction that covers women in history, but I can't help but think there is a better book out there on the subject. 

Publisher: Vintage, 2007


  1. This book concept looks interesting, although judging from what you've said I might skim it in a bookstore instead of actually buying it. I would love to see a successful execution of this topic.

  2. Red, The concept is what made me buy the book, but overall it is disappointing.