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on 2 June 2014
Maybe it would have been better to title this book a history of feminism. Still a good read. Not so good if you want to get an introduction to modern feminism, which is what I wanted. It seemed to breeze past most of the recent stuff.
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on 6 December 2012
I realised that I refer to myself as a feminist but did not enough about the movement to really be able to back up my thoughts and attitudes. This book gives a very grounding in the movement but is, exactly as it says, a very short introduction. The basic history is all here, and is a brilliant basis for further research and personal thought.
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on 3 June 2017
Good guide for the ignorant and revision for the knowledgeable.
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on 26 August 2016
great book for gender / media studies
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on 11 May 2013
I now own quite a few of the 'Very short Introduction To...' books. I'm studying Fine Art so I have bought a load that relate to that. I have found however that some of these books are quite difficult to get into and to read. I consider myself to be a good reader but I find they don't flow well and sometimes over-complicate things which is frustrating for books who's main purpose is to inform.

This one however, is definitely my favourite. Though I worried it would be like the others it's actually very interesting and gripping. The writing flows well and includes some fascinating chapters. It's endlessly useful for myself as I do tend to refer to feminism in pretty much every written task I have and this book was genuinely a real eye-opener.

Even my boyfriend who is reluctant to read feminist books found this one a good read.

Highly recommendable, particularly for students.
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on 20 April 2009
I am a 28 year old mancunian man and i read this book when i was bored one day. I enjoyed it very much and it made me look at feminism with different eyes. I was particularly impressed with how Margaret Walters went right back into history to trace feminism's beginnings and progress up to the present day. The book remained vital and interesting at all times and never veered into dense academic waffle like some of the Very Short Introductions can. Added to that, i really enjoyed Walter's writing style - a key aspect i feel in making these short introductions attractive to the general reader.

A great read for anyone of any gender.
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on 13 September 2010
Very Short Introductions are seldom short, but often brief. However this is a perfect example of how they should be written. It is a very informative introduction, expertly written (unlike many others in the series).

If you are hesitating on whether to buy this on the basis that you may not find it useful, I found it immensely helpful in understanding some of the history behind feminism. It touches on feminism from late 15th century Religious "Feminism" to modern (late 20th century) Feminism. Each chapter is long enough to give you an overview of the main players in the movement like Mary Astell, Mary Wollstonecraft, J.S Mill, Thompson, Reid and many others.

I am a male english lit student and take a more academic interest in the movement but when I started reading this I couldn't put it down, I most-whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone remotely interested in feminism.
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VINE VOICEon 28 December 2009
Margaret Walters has written an excellent introduction to the subject of feminism. Walters traces arguments for the equal treatment of men and women back to its religious roots, referring to neglected voices such as Hildegard of Bingen and Margery Kempe. She also mentions the emergence of female preachers amongst the dissenting groups during the revolutionary period of the seventeenth century, in particular the Quakers and Anabaptists.

The "Amazons of the Pen", including Mary Astell and Mary Wollstonecraft used a simple argument - there was more to life than becoming a wife and attending to social duties. Wollstonecraft was a contradiction, arguing forcefully for women's rights but being emotionally devastated by her love for Gilbert Imlay. Although Wollstonecraft died prematurely her ideas continued, though stunted by their association with radical politics. However, there were different strands of feminism including the unsung Marion Reid who advocated educational opportunities, later put into practice by Emily Davies with the support of Josephine Butler.

Butler, who was driven by the pain of losing her own daughter in an accident, combined passion with beauty, determination with courage and, from a high social position, provided leadership with her analysis of the "double standard" and the debasement of men that came with State prostitution. Like many reformers she was conservative by nature and felt obliged to ask her husband for his permission to conduct her campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts. It was to George Butler's credit that he gave up all hope of ecclesiastical preferment so she could do so. Not all men were so supportive, not all women appreciated the value of male support.

What becomes clear is that women gained as much credence by what they did as by what they said. The courage of Caroline Norton and the determination of Elizabeth Garrett were practical examples of the equality of women. The success of the various political and social campaigns were in stark contrast to the Suffragette Movement at the turn of the century. The politics of female suffrage led by the unstable Pankhurst clan whose lifetime causes encompassed a variety of views. Direct action was the political flavour of the period and the equally unstable Emily Davison earned her place in history by throwing herself under the King's horse on Derby Day in 1913. However, the violence underpinning direct action alienated many who believed in the power of argument.

The intellectual left remained the home of radical thought and it was no surprise when Simone de Beauvoir produced her famous argument in The Second Sex that "one is not born but becomes a woman" which represented a re-statement of the age old argument that women's existence should not be determined by the needs of men. Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique struck a chord with white middle class women but divisions soon showed in the politics of women's liberation centred on issues of sexuality, body issues and pornography. Feminism became part of gender studies as feminist issues in different countries came to prominence, including issues of female circumcision and the social role of women in Islamic societies.

The main weakness of the women's movement in the West remained its commitment to a socialist vision of society, notwithstanding the world wide empirical failures of socialism. The problem for feminism is that it has become an academic subject expressed as a form of newspeak, particularly in the post-structuralism of Judith Butler (who is not mentioned) which separates theory from reality in a manner which has removed dynamism from the political action necessary to effect lasting change. Whether feminism will be reinvented to produce further changes, as Walters hopes, is moot. In this respect Dr Hook 's "A couple more years" is instructive:

You're going somewhere
But I've been to somewhere
And found that it's nowhere at all.
I've got a couple more years on you baby that's all

There is a good bibliography although they don't extend to the emergence of Third Wave Feminism which, in itself, is quite telling. Well written. An excellent introduction. Five stars.
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on 23 October 2014
Bit patronising to Eastern women assumes women in the West have it best. Confirms the materialistic, individualistic nature of feminism.
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This is a useful overview of the history of feminism. It doesn't go into the rights and wrongs of feminism at any point in history it simply relates information about people who wrote on the subject or were involved in the various groups set up to change the way women were treated and perceived.

The book mainly looks at Britain with some digressions to the US and to Europe and brief information about feminism in the Third World. I found the pre-nineteenth century chapters of great interest as I was not familiar with many of the names mentioned.

The book is written in a low-key style with plenty of quotations form sources as well as notes on chapters and a reading list and index. If you're looking for a simple overview of the subject you could do worse than read this as it can act as a starting off point for further reading.
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