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Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World


Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World

In her new book, PASSIONATE MINDS: Women Rewriting The World, Claudia Roth Pierpont has chronicled the lives of 12 women who have inspired us with their innovative ideas and passionate works --- writing was the common medium used by all. Pierpont organizes the book into three major categories. Politics, sexual freedom, and race are threads uniting the women depicted in PASSIONATE MINDS.

Pierpont's essays read much like fiction. She writes about childhoods, motivations, causes and effects, and real-life reactions. Each woman springs to life in the pages devoted to her life story. Olive Schreiner, in THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM, blasphemed church life in 1887 in England. Schreiner's book established her as a freethinker and became a guidebook for the spiritual-minded unchurched of her day. Today, Schreiner has a new following in the literary feminist movement.

The chapter dealing with the life of Gertrude Stein is titled "The Mother of Confusion." Stein espoused that the use of commas in writing was a degrading sign of weakness. Her papers, books, and essays muddled and frustrated even the most devoted of her audience. She influenced the cause of women's rights far beyond her years.

Mae West is remembered most for her place in American cinema history as an actress, not as an author. She began with a sketch for a vaudeville act in 1913. "Diamond Lil" was produced and re-titled "She Done Him Wrong." The bawdy, brash, burlesque actress wrote the same characteristics into her screenplays. Unchangeable, she remained a strong, sexual enigma and a pattern for modern women who followed her lead.

Margaret Mitchell wrote GONE WITH THE WIND and stunned the literary world with her heroine, Scarlet O'Hara. Depicted as the master of her world, not a victim of it, Scarlett changed the way readers saw the role of Southern women. Mitchell's theme of survival was the axis upon which the novel rotated. Her great epic won her the hearts of future generations, not because of accurate history but as a real reflection of an entire society.

Additional female authors chronicled are Anais Nin, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ayn Rand, Doris Lessing, Hannah Arendt, and Mary McCarthy. Pierpont writes the lives of these women with careful attention to biographical details. Each is assessed for her contribution to literature.

PASSIONATE MINDS is a critical collection of essays that allows the reader inside the lives of a dozen complex women who wrote their ideas into their times. The common theme was that all 12, though inspired, remained personally unfulfilled.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on February 13, 2001

Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World
by Claudia Roth Pierpont

  • Publication Date: February 13, 2001
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0679751130
  • ISBN-13: 9780679751137