This lively book tells a story never told before: the complete history of women readers and the controversies their reading has inspired since the beginning of the written word. Belinda Jack's groundbreaking volume travels from the Cro-Magnon cave to the digital bookstores of our time, exploring how and what women have read through the ages and across cultures and civilizations. Jack traces a history marked by persistent efforts to prevent women from gaining literacy and to censor their reading. She also recounts the counterefforts of remarkable women - and some men - who have fought back and battled for the educational enfranchisement of girls. The book introduces dissatisfied female readers of many different eras - ancient poetesses disappointed by the limitations of male poets, Babylonian princesses calling for women's voices to be heard, rebellious nuns who wanted to share their writings with others, confidantes questioning Reformation theologians about their writings, famous and infamous wives whose reading provoked their husbands, and nineteenth-century New England mill girls who risked their jobs to smuggle novels into the workplace.
Today, a new set of distinctions between male and female readers has emerged, and Jack explores such contemporary topics as the commitment of mothers vs. fathers to children's literacy, women's vocal demands for censorship in school libraries, and the impact of women readers in their new status as the prime movers in the world of reading.