Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyoncé

Image of Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyoncé
Release Date: 
March 7, 2023
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press
Reviewed by: 

This book is well-executed, exceptionally well researched, and a pleasure to read, even when it presents challenging thoughts and ideas.”

When writing about strong, assertive women, authors seem to always start with Abigail Adams, who showed no hesitation in reminding her husband, John, to “not forget the ladies.” He did forget but not because his wife was silent.

Elizabeth Cobbs gives readers an excellent and well-researched deep dive into the lives of women who insisted that they be considered an integral part of the American experience. Cobbs has paired up well-known and unknown women to explain what women have wanted and needed since the founding of the United States. Through the pages of this book, it is well-established that those wants and needs were often ignored or overlooked, often because the men in power thought women needed protecting above all else.

Fearless Women is an excellent example of how a historical book can be written with exciting and prolific prose that makes readers want to turn the page and find out what comes next. This is an exciting and compelling read. Too often women’s voices are silenced because what’s being said makes men uncomfortable. Cobbs is giving a platform to those voices and what those women said must be heard.

Cobbs presents a narrative on American history that is rarely included in history books. Certainly, the voices of women are seldom heard in classrooms at any level. And, given the current political contretemps in which the country is engrossed, too many are hell bent to continue to exclude women from the discussion.

More than two decades into the 21st century, women continue to struggle to be heard and be taken seriously. What Abigail Adams faced in the 18th century is not markedly different from what women face today. There is an ongoing campaign to restrict women’s rights and the arguments for doing so would sound reasonable to men like John Adams.

The times may change but the attitude toward women remains static and regressive as reflected in recent attacks on women’s rights.

The chapters in Fearless Women highlight two women, one well-known, the other less so, and wrap the chapter’s theme through their lives. Some of the women chosen are obvious because of their historical importance to advancing women’s rights. There are some, however, whose inclusion may seem puzzling—such as Phyllis Schlafly, who went to considerable lengths to undermine the Equal Rights Amendment. Schlafly admonished feminists and reminded women that their rightful place was in the home, raising children and supporting their husbands—all while traveling around the country and leaving her husband and children home fending for themselves. Still, Schlafly had an impact on women’s lives even though many believe that impact was counterproductive to establishing women’s rights in the United States.

This makes the book that much more interesting because it will require readers to reconsider how they view women who opposed or took actions that may be viewed as running contrary to advancing efforts to establish women’s rights. A book that makes a reader think or challenges well-considered opinions must be included in the stack next to the bed.

This book is well-executed, exceptionally well researched, and a pleasure to read, even when it presents challenging thoughts and ideas.

Too often women are held responsible for the woes of a world that they did not create and have little power control. Cobbs gives readers an insight into the lives of women who came before and those that exist still all while considering how they impact lives today.