BOOK REVIEWS

Belva Lockwood: Equal Rights Pioneer (Trailblazer Biographies) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-09-08 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 2 user ratings
ISBN:0822590689
LANGUAGE:English

" Interesting book since I knew nothing about Belva Lockwood. Had trouble following the authors train of thought at times. " said.

" What an amazing woman! As I read, I wondered why have I never heard of her? I am glad this biography was written. " said.

"Professor Norgren's book is the definitive biography of this fascinating feminist who ran for President in both 1884 and 1888. Her research is impressive and is presented in a scholarly, yet entertaining fashion. Norgren recognizes what a colorful character her subject is, and successfully brings that personality alive. I have an interest in Lockwood myself, but I find myself deferring to Professor Norgren whenever we seem to be in disagreement, her observations being so wise. An indispensable volume for anyone interested in the history of the American Woman Suffrage movement." said.

"Jill Norgren does it again! She takes a fantastic yet forgotten piece of American history and makes it not just known but utterly fascinating. Not as good an Historian at making history as thrilling as say Erik Larson but close! You really can't ask for more.

Lockwood's story is the story of the millions of American women carved out of public life who were clawing to claim a piece of the America dream for themselves. She was full of spit and grit in the face of men who would tell her she was "unqualified" simply for being female. She fought for her law degree and then fought to run for President. We would all do well to remember that women have been involved in politics in America much earlier than the 60s.
" said.

"Niagara County maverick women unite! OK, so I get a little bit excited about Belva Lockwood since she is from Niagara County (like me) and her childhood homestead is rumored to be on the park that my dad took me hiking at many, many moons ago. But I knew so little about her other than she grew up in Royalton, was a lawyer and was the first woman to run for president, back when women couldn't even vote. I had been looking for a biography on her and loved this work by Jill Norgren.

Few of Lockwood's papers and correspondance survived, making writing about her difficult. Also I suspect her falling out with the women's suffrage big shots of her day, primarily Susan B. Anthony, probably pushed her to the fringes of American women's history. She never missed an opportunity for self promotion (which didn't always go over well with other women) but was committed to her causes which included not just the vote for women but social reform for women. She advocated that all women should be able to be self-sufficient before entering marriage. Sound advice over 100 years ago and sound advice today.

She advocated for more women in decision making roles -- from public office to organizations to the family. When shunned by the women's movement, she threw herself into national and international peace movements. Often late in life without money and sometimes choosing to the fight the wrong battles, she was stubborn and determined. Two qualities I admire.

I thoroughly enjoyed the work of Norgren in this book. Well-researched and well-written, it paints a picture not just of Lockwood's life but of the forces which shaped her experience. I feel as if I know more about the person Belva was than the previous list of facts I could recite.
" said.

"Book Review
Belva Lockwood
by Jill Norgren
Jill Norgren has quite a story to tell. Belva Lockwood (1830–1917) had to wage an arduous campaign just to get into law school and after completing the course she was refused a degree. An expert lobbyist who befriended influential congressmen, Lockwood marshaled her forces, eventually obtained her diploma, and then had to wage another battle to be admitted to the Washington, D.C., bar. And that was hardly the last public struggle for the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court and to conduct the first full campaign for the presidency.

In her new biography, "Belva Lockwood" (New York University Press, 311 pages, $35) Ms. Norgren, a legal historian, explains that she first learned of Lockwood while helping her daughter select books in the children's section at the public library. "I knew nothing about the woman or her accomplishments," Ms. Norgren writes, "virtually none of my university colleagues knew her name."

More biographers — more scholars — should read biographies intended for children, which can serve as a syncretic introduction to the biographical subject. It is shame that Ms. Norgren does not identify the biography she first put in her daughter's hands.

So why has Lockwood languished in biographical purdah? Ms. Norgren faults fashion: the appetite for biographies of "Founding Fathers and fighting generals." Well, sure, but other women of Lockwood's stature have attracted their fair share of biographers.

More to the point, Lockwood's niece, an amateur biographer, never completed the job. At the time, few libraries collected the papers of notable women, Ms. Norgren points out. And then Lockwood's closest surviving relative, a grandson, unforgivably sent her papers off to the Salvation Army as scrap paper that was later pulped.

Many biographers would balk at the paucity of archival sources. But Ms. Norgren persisted, calculating rightly that she would find important traces of Lockwood in others' papers. Lockwood also wrote about her life and published frequently. Newspapers covered her activities. As a practicing lawyer, she appears in all manner of other records, as well.

In Ms. Norgren's credible narrative, Lockwood emerges as a shrewd self-promoter, never hesitating to garner publicity for herself and her causes. After a brief first marriage and the birth of a daughter, Lockwood started on her public career. A second marriage to a much older man was agreeable but also strategic, for Lockwood did not hesitate to use her husband's business contacts to corral her own clients. Nellie Bly, the New York World's "daredevil girl reporter," pronounced Lockwood a worthy presidential candidate, calling her a "womanly woman … intelligent without being manly … the beau ideal of a woman with a brain."

In eloquent detail, Ms. Norgren shows how Lockwood loved the law. As a solo practitioner, she went after all sorts of cases: civil actions, divorces, and criminal trials. Lockwood ventured into other states acting on behalf of clients, and she helped to set up networks of female lawyers who could help one another.

When Ms. Norgren falters, it is hardly her fault. With so much private correspondence missing, it is difficult to picture the private Lockwood. In more intimate settings, was she always able to put on such a brave face? Was she really so unruffled by male chauvinism?

Ms. Norgren could make a little more of Lockwood's personality. An amusing episode, for example, shows Lockwood in motion, deflecting the sort of criticism that made other feminists fume. In 1881, to get to her appointments quickly, Lockwood adopted the then exclusively male practice of riding a large tricycle on the streets of Washington, D.C. The press attacked this unladylike behavior, lampooning it in cartoons and even speculating that it might ruin the "feminine organs of matrimonial necessity."

While certain feminists like Susan B. Anthony made an ideological issue out of the controversy, proclaiming the bicycle an instrument of female emancipation, Lockwood composed a poem:

A simple home woman, who only had thought
To lighten the labors her business had wrought.
And make a machine serve the purpose of feet.
And at the same time keep her dress from the street.

Ms. Norgren calls this ditty "light-hearted," an expression of Lockwood's amusement at the hullabaloo. So it is, but it also demonstrates how Lockwood got ahead, making her vehicle seem like the natural extension of a successful woman's work, while also reminding readers of the alternately muddy and dusty streets of the capital that made it difficult to preserve ladylike behavior.

This episode would be a good way to begin a Lockwood biography — one perhaps a children's biographer could use as a means of amplifying Ms. Norgren's sober-sided book.

" said.

" Interesting book since I knew nothing about Belva Lockwood. Had trouble following the authors train of thought at times. " said.

" What an amazing woman! As I read, I wondered why have I never heard of her? I am glad this biography was written. " said.

December 2017 New Book:

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