I approached this book from a position of great interest but limited knowledge of the specifics of the movement, many of the individuals involved or much of the political context. I can safely say that this has been remedied to no small degree by reading the Ascent of Woman and I am certainly glad to have done so.
Having said that, I don't think I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, at least, I clearly struggled more than previous reviewers to `get into' it. I was initially discouraged by assumptions made by the author that the reader would be familiar with certain figures and/or political acts or movements referenced. Later I became mildly frustrated that the narrative was repetitive at times and, in discussing the period prior to 1900, not always chronological. At times, I was disappointed in the lack of details provided on a particular character or event. This is, no doubt a result of the vastness of the subject tackled by Ms Phillips, in so relatively short a book. It is not meant as a slight on the authors level of knowledge on the subject, which is clearly remarkable.
Personal sacrifice was perhaps played down in favour of a slightly more sterile, detached historical account of some of the more despicable treatment of women both prior to and during the militant period, as one might expect from an historian. However, not to such a degree as to leave one disengaged. On the contrary, the Ascent of Woman has inspired me to seek out more, and more detailed, accounts of some of the events and characters to whom I was introduced and I now feel like I do have the background information I previously lacked which will enable me to fully understand and connect with pieces on those aspects which I found most interesting. There are, sadly, pitifully few resources available on this subject, relative to other periods of British political and social history. And, whilst the Ascent of Woman may have focussed more on the political than on the personal or social than my own preference would have it, I have yet to find one more comprehensive and so, if you are willing to put a little effort into the read,I would certainly recommend this as a starting point from which to educate yourself on the subject.