Last week, the Ma’yan office received a half dozen or so boxes of books from Barbara Dobkin, our founder and chair, who was cleaning out her office. The books ran the gamut from knitting patterns to comic book biographies of important feminists. There are books about women’s health, books about philanthropy, books about poetry. Many of them are worn, beautifully designed, and nostalgic in the specific way of ancient printed matter. Some gems:
[click titles to see images of each book]
Ruth Limmer (1980, Viking)
In this yellowing, hardbound volume, Ruth Limmer, the literary executor of former U.S Poet Laureate and New Yorker poetry critic Louise Bogan (1897-1970) compiles fragments of Bogan’s public and private writings to form an impressive lyric and narrative tapestry.
Quotable: “At fifteen, and for a long time thereafter, it is a monstrous thing, the heart.” pg. 43
Margaret Sanger (1920, Blue Ribbon / Cornwall)
The birth control clinic that Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) open in 1916 in Brooklyn resulted in her arrest. It also resulted, eventually in the formation of an organization called The American Birth Control League, which turned into Planned Parenthood. Woman and The New Race was part of her widespread campaign reaching out to women during the 1920s. It is a delightfully argumentative book, edgy and articulate and sure of itself.
Quotable: “One thing we know—the woman who has escaped the chains of too great reproductivity will never again wear them. The birthrate of the wealthy and upper classes will never appreciably rise. The woman of these classes is free of her most oppressive bond. Being free, we have a right to expect much of her…We expect her to demolish old systems of morals, a degenerate prudery, Dark-Age religious concepts, laws that enslave women by denying them the knowledge of their bodies, and information as to contraceptives.” pgs. 70-71
Nicholas DeLange (1978, Viking)
This book of new (as of the late 70s) translations and interpretations of apocryphal Jewish writings is fascinating. Cambridge professor DeLange provides exhaustive historical background about the apocryphal texts while at the same time justifying them on spiritual and philosophical grounds. Incredible “lost” texts of the Judaic canon are presented here, including stories of Judith, Susanna, and of course, Maccabees, which details the origins of Hanukkah.
Quotable: “That is why Jacob favored the young, because they are upright. We, too, should look after our young people so that they will grow to be upstanding citizens and always be God-Fearing and intelligent.” pg. 132
Edited by Mary Lou Thompson (1970, Beacon)
This historic compilation of writings from a turning point in the women’s movement features work by Roxanne Dunbar, Betty Friedan, Mary Daly, and other key feminist thinkers. With sections titled, ‘History,’ ‘Ideology,’ ‘Problems and Goals,’ ‘Emerging Lifestyles,’ and ‘Program for the Future,’ the book provides a moving and incisive portrait of one of the most important political and cultural struggles of the twentieth century, the concerns of which are still very much live today.
Quotable: “A philosopher once said ‘The great law of culture is: Let each become all that he was created capable of being.’ I do not think we ask for more than that. I am convinced we cannot settle for less.” Elizabeth Duncan Koontz, pg. 86
Edited by Rachel Katzenelson-Rubashow, Translated by Maurice Samuel (1932, Nicholas L. Brown)
This remarkable book is comprised of brief diary entries solicited from an array of Jewish women in Palestine in the 1920s. The majority of them were living in communes doing agricultural labor. While the editor contends that this is “not a literary enterprise,” the unembellished sentences that allude to entire family histories, the sense of triumph in difficult physical labor, the stoic descriptions of illness and death, are arresting and impressive.
if you’re interested in learning more about the Ma’yan feminist library, a growing collection of essential texts touching on many issues around feminism, judaism, and literature, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org