"Buckeye Women: The History of Ohio's Daughters," by Stephane Elise Booth (Ohio University Press, $37.95 cloth, $17.95 paper)
hio's approaching bicentennial brings with it a sense of reflection and a desire to synthesize 200 years of development. This is exemplified by the Ohio Bicentennial Series, published by the Ohio University Press in association with the Ohio Bicentennial Commission.
The third installment in the series, "Buckeye Women: The History of Ohio's Daughters," was written by Stephane Elise Booth, who teaches history and is assistant dean at Kent State University, Salem Campus. As its title suggests, the book examines the myriad, evolving roles women have played in Ohio's history.
"Buckeye Women" is divided into six chapters, each dealing with specific topics, such as paid employment, the suffrage movement and Ohio's culture.
On the frontier: Booth opens with the state's origins as frontier territory. Settlement of Ohio began soon after the passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. Often using the settlers' own words, Booth details the hardships and triumphs of women from that period.
Describing some of the difficulties of frontier life, Liwwat Boke, of Mercer County, wrote, "Life is a long struggle. We must fell the trees, but also cope with droughts, deep snow, sudden flooding .... In time some people here go completely mad, change, commit suicide. Countless people do not talk with their spouses." Boke also acknowledges the disaster "squirrels in swarms" could wreak on cornfields.
In the opening chapter, Booth also pinpoints women as chief contributors to culture, religion and education in the budding state. As Ohio grew and modernized, women continued to play a major role in these areas, as Booth explains in later chapters.
New challenges: Once the rough lands of the frontier were tamed and cities began to flourish, new challenges arose for Ohio's women. At the forefront were women's struggles for adequate working conditions and equal pay and their quest to be granted the vote.
Booth provides a comprehensive outline of these movements, but the personalities she highlights are more engaging than her descriptions of events.
For instance, Booth points out that the first female presidential candidate was Victoria Claflin Woodhull, a resident of Canton for several years. Woodhull was nominated by the Equal Rights party in 1872. Of course, she was subsequently threatened with imprisonment for illegal candidacy, since women were not allowed to run for any political office at that time.
Also, Harriet Beecher Stowe, a long-time resident of Cincinnati, published "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in 1852.
Record breaker: Another intriguing person Booth mentions is Mary Ann Campana of Youngstown, who, in 1933, broke the world light airplane endurance record by staying in the air for over 12 hours.
There's nothing revolutionary about "Buckeye Women." Ohio's treatment of women through the years corresponds closely with the evolution of the nation's attitude toward women, and Booth does not come to any shocking conclusions.
However, the book is worth a look if you are interested in state history or women's studies. "Buckeye Women" is a thorough compilation of the noteworthy accomplishments of regional women and is an appropriate title to celebrate the impending bicentennial.

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