Women Of The Blue & Gray: True Civil War Stories Of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, And Spies, by Marianne Monson
It is perhaps a bit unfair to point to the fact that the author is not a historian but really a feminist scholar of literature. This book springs more from her knowledge of literature, particularly memoirs and letters and the like, rather than her knowledge of history. The author is at least working in what should theoretically be her wheelhouse, and that is the primary documentation of women’s lives by the women themselves, but as is often the case with this sort of book, the author’s perspective is a major problem here. The author tries to justify her agnostic position between the North and South in the Civil War by pointing to the fact that she is interested in women, regardless of their position, but doing so demonstrates that she is so focused on feminist history that she mistakes the importance of recognizing what is right and wrong about the behavior of historical actors in general. If you lack the same sort of strong interest that the author has in feminist history, then this book will simply be irritating where the author tries to champion some woman who deserves a great deal more criticism than this author is willing to give.
Frontier Grit: The Unlikely True Stories Of Daring Pioneer Women, by Marianne Monson
If you are familiar with the author’s work as a whole, this book is disappointing but not necessarily surprising. Monson is an author who wants to be viewed as a historian, but studied literature and has an obvious and intrusive feminist perspective that makes its way here too (as was the case in the other book of hers I have read) that demonstrates that this is not a one-off problem but is part of her approach as a whole. As might be expected, the author seeks to use primary sources and her own perspective to demonstrate an interest of women in a wide variety of circumstances. What makes this book somewhat troublesome from a historical perspective is that the author serves as a booster for women in general, not knowing or seeming to care about their larger historical perspective and the fact that championing one particular person for qualities and points of view precludes other options. This woman just wants to celebrate women, not to have a coherent historical perspective beyond that.