Borrowing from Our Foremothers


Borrowing from Our Foremothers

Reexamining the Women's Movement through Material Culture, 1848–2017

312 pages
10 photographs, 23 illustrations, index

eBook (PDF)
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December 2021


$60.00 Add to Cart

December 2021


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2021


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Borrowing from Our Foremothers offers a panorama of women’s struggles through artifacts to establish connections between the generations of women’s right activists. In a thorough historical retelling of the women’s movement from 1848 to 2017, Amy Helene Forss focuses on items borrowed from our innovative foremothers, including cartes de visite, clothing, gavels, sculptures, urns, service pins, and torches.

Framing the material culture items within each era’s campaigns yields a wider understanding of the women’s metanarrative. Studded with relics and ninety-nine oral histories from such women as Rosalynn Carter to Pussyhat Project cocreator Krista Suh, this book contributes an important and illuminating analysis necessary for understanding the development of feminism as well as our current moment.

Author Bio

Amy Helene Forss serves as Metropolitan Community College’s History Program chair and Social Sciences Department corepresentative in Omaha, Nebraska. She is the author of Black Print with a White Carnation: Mildred Brown and the “Omaha Star” Newspaper, 1938–1989 (Nebraska, 2014).


"Borrowing from Our Foremothers is a welcome and illuminating analysis necessary for understanding the development of feminism as well as our current moment. By placing material culture items within each era's political campaigns, this book yields a deeper understanding of the women's-movement metanarrative."—Süheyla Saritas, Journal of Folklore Research

"This book offers an engaging introduction to several important themes, figures, and institutions within expanse of women's rights activism in the United States."—Mariah Kupfner, H-Material-Culture

"Forss makes an admirable effort to fill in the gaps for a more accurate and inclusive historical record of the women's movement. . . . Recent events, legislation, and rulings on issues such as Roe v. Wade remind us that the fight for women’s rights is not over and must continue into the future."—Sharon L. Kennedy, Nebraska History

"Employing a combination of artifact study, primary sources, and interviews, Amy Helene Forss contributes to our understanding of the 169 years of women's struggle for suffrage and equal rights."—Susan Curtis, Great Plains Quarterly

"There are few scholarly works that so profusely and precisely discuss the interconnection of artifacts surrounding the American women’s movement as Forss does in Borrowing from Our Foremothers."—Cynthia Boyd, Journal of American Folklore

"The reader walks away with a greater sense of the tapestry of women and artifacts that have come to constitute a nearly two-century-long struggle. Of particular note are the 100 interviews with descendants of foremothers, especially Marian Anderson's granddaughter-in-law, and with foremothers themselves, including Carlotta Walls LaNier, Valerie Pettis, Phyllis Schlafly, and Peggy Kokernot Kaplan. These interviews appear throughout the text and constitute some of Forss's most strikingly original research in that they enliven the larger material historical tapestry, connecting past and present with living threads."—Jessica Conrad, Winterthur Portfolio

Borrowing from Our Foremothers is about historical connectedness—the dots, moments, and artifacts that make up the history of U.S. feminism. One of the [book’s] strengths is its highlighting of African American women and their often-overlooked leadership roles in the American feminist movement. The interviews the author conducted for the book are many and impressive. They are a valuable and unique contribution.”—Mary K. Trigg, author of Feminism as Life’s Work: Four Modern American Women through Two World Wars

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