They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South is a professional historian’s account of the role of women in slavery, concluding with the perhaps obvious statement that they (or at least some of them) were eager and often sophisticated actors in slavery. To make her argument, she cites legal records showing gifts of slaves to women (even girls), lawsuits between wives and husbands for control of slave ownership, and sales records proving that women were active and savvy traders. The details are stomach turning.
Tag Archives: women
Women’s Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home tells the stories of various women who took care of her home and children when she and her husband lived in China and India. She expertly recounts both the complicated relationships between employers and employees whose very job brings them into the intimacy of the home, and then she goes further, exploring the home lives of her employees including children left behind, alcoholism, poverty, and rough family lives. I felt that, by breaking the employer/employee (already fraying) divide, and from a position of strength, she may have exploited the workers even further. But it is an interesting view of domestic workers.
Told in accomplished flashbacks inspired from the author’s walks in New York City with her aging mother, Fierce Attachments recounts her childhood in a Jewish immigrant working-class neighborhood, fascinated by a Gentile widow who does not quite follows the rules. I got annoyed by the constant criticisms of her mother, continuing into her mature adulthood when I believe we should all give up on that, but the childhood scenes are complex and well told.
Cherokee America is a fictional matriarch, inspired by the author’s grandmother, and in the story she has to contend with a dying husband, a wayward son, a dead newborn, orphans, a murder, a falsely accused black servant, and the white judge who would love to disrupt Native American justice. It’s an enjoyable rambling story with abundant historical references to the Trail of Tears and the Civil War. A big too much happens to that one woman in the course of the novel, and her son’s sexual urges are described a bit too comprehensively, but it makes for a long and rich story with lots of interesting characters.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup tells the story of Theranos, the biotech startup headed by a very young woman that raised $900 million before being exposed as a fraud, as its blood testing devices simply did not draw enough blood to accurately perform any of the tests it was touted to do.
The subtitle is very accurate in that many of the stories, although extreme, could take place in any other startup: the paranoia about trade secrets, the over-the-top parties with inflated claims of taking over the world, the competing engineering teams, not to mention the crazy work hours. What’s amazing in this story, and is only hinted at by the author (a journalist who sticks to facts), is how a college dropout was able to bamboozle a series of venture capitalists into raising a fortune. It’s so interesting to see that all the VCs are older men and the CEO is a young woman, and that they are all technology VCs trying hard to succeed in the biotech field. Since a very basic knowledge of chemistry suggests that the blood tests could not be accurate, how come they never inquired (and none of the biotech VCs was interested)? It’s an amazing story, not because of the internal shenanigans, but because of who was fooled.
How I wish I could love a story that includes the Great Molasses Flood as an uncontrived plot device! But Bowlaway a family saga centered on an unconventional woman who opens a bowling alley, and her family, had too many unbelievable twists to keep my interest. Yes, I wanted to know what came next, but I could never lose myself in the story, despite the vast cast of unusual characters. Maybe you will be able to?
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men is, unfortunately, a bit of a messy book. The less interesting parts are a litany of standard sexist practices, which are sadly quite well-known and not (IMHO) related to any invisibility of women, such as the unequal distribution of domestic chores, all delivered on an unregulated tone of outrage.
The best bits expose processes and decisions that inadvertently create sexist outcomes, from snow-clearing schedules, the location of bus stops, automated recruiting algorithms, misguided distribution practices of stoves designed to fight indoor solutions, and the complete lack of testing of car safety features for the smaller bodies of women. Sadly but hopefully, there is a simple solution to these problems: include people in decisions of all kinds.