Barbara Egger Lennon

Teacher, Mother, Activist

Tina Stewart Brakebill

First Edition • February 3, 2015 • 192 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813347974 • $22.00 USD$28.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813347981 • $9.99 USD$12.99 CAN

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Facets of Barbara Egger Lennon’s life define her as an ordinary white Midwestern woman of her time: teacher, wife, mother. Her work as a union organizer and political activist, however, complicate that picture. The way in which she balanced these roles illustrates how many women of her time shaped their lives in the face of three significant forces: work, family, and politics. Enriched by years of detailed diary entries that Egger Lennon wrote, Barbara Egger Lennon: Teacher, Mother, Activist deepens our understanding of the ways in which work and political activism could exist alongside the traditional role of women in the early 20th century.

About the Lives of American Women series:
Selected and edited by renowned women’s historian Carol Berkin, these brief biographies are designed for use in undergraduate courses. Rather than a comprehensive approach, each biography focuses instead on a particular aspect of a women’s life that is emblematic of her time, or which made her a pivotal figure in the era. The emphasis is on a “good read,” featuring accessible writing and compelling narratives, without sacrificing sound scholarship and academic integrity. Primary sources at the end of each biography reveal the subject’s perspective in her own words. Study questions and an annotated bibliography support the student reader.

Tina Stewart Brakebill is an award winning author and teacher. As an instructor at Illinois State University, Brakebill’s classes focus on the experiences of women and minorities. She recently won the highest honor bestowed on teachers: the Outstanding University Teaching Award. Similar to her pedagogical goals, her research and writing also aims to give voice to the previously unheard. Her first book “Circumstances are destiny”: An Antebellum Woman’s Struggle to Define Sphere explores the way in which the life of one “ordinary” woman can broaden and deepen our understanding of historical themes and trends. It tells the story of an Ohio wife, mother, and rural dairy farmer as she attempted to incorporate the roles of writer, abolitionist, and women’s rights advocate into her life. It received the William and Henry Harrison Award for the best book for an Ohio related family history.

Series Editor Carol Berkin is a well-known women’s historian and the author of many popular and scholarly books, including Civil War Wives. She is Professor of History Emerita at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and she is a member of the Society of American Historians.

Series Editor’s Foreword

1 From Student to Teacher, 1880s – 1902
2 Personal and Professional Deference to Authority, 1902 – 1908
3 Aspiring New Woman, 1909 – 1915
4 New Woman, 1915 – 1918
5 From New Woman at Work to New Woman at Home, 1919 – 1921
6 Motherhood and the New Woman, 1921 – 1928
7 Navigating the Great Depression: Union Organizing & Local Politics, 1929 – 1937
8 Looking Outward: From Depression to War, 1937 – 1945
9 Looking to the Future: Political Battles Won and Lost, 1945 – 1950
10 Retirement: Continuity and Change, 1950 – 1983

Primary Sources
Abbreviations Used
Study Questions
Annotated Bibliography

“This biography of Barbara Egger Lennon artfully demonstrates how the New Woman impacted the lives of individual women who had to negotiate the demands of family and friends as they moved toward the independence and autonomous thinking the New Woman celebrated. Lennon’s long career as an educator and labor activist is a shining example of how the New Woman carried her identity into the workplace and in very important ways generated change for teachers throughout Illinois.”
—Tonia M. Compton, assistant professor of History, Columbia College of Missouri

“This study adds an interesting tessera to the mosaic that is contemporary women’s history. Originating in the diary of Barbara Egger Lennon and against the backdrop of modern social history, it also substantiates the claim that the personal is indeed political. Brakebill’s book is an object lesson and a source of inspiration, offering us a valuable insight into the life of an otherwise neglected front-runner as a daughter, wife, mother, teacher, union organizer, and political activist.”
—Wanda Balzano, Department Chair and Associate Professor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Wake Forest University

“The impressive job Brakebill does with her deep research is documenting the daily life triumphs and woes of a woman who cut a path through social expectations… This well-written local history is a snapshot of women’s lives in the early 20th century and deserves a place on your shelf.” —Grand Prairie Union News

Praise for the Lives of American Women series

“Finally! The majority of students—by which I mean women—will have the opportunity to read biographies of women from our nation’s past. (Men can read them too, of course!) The ‘Lives of American Women’ series features an eclectic collection of books, readily accessible to students who will be able to see the contributions of women in many fields over the course of our history. Long overdue, these books will be a valuable resource for teachers, students, and the public at large.”
—Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty

“Just what any professor wants: books that will intrigue, inform, and fascinate students! These short, readable biographies of American women—specifically designed for classroom use—give instructors an appealing new option to assign to their history students.”
—Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History, Cornell University

“For educators keen to include women in the American story, but hampered by the lack of thoughtful, concise scholarship, here comes ‘Lives of American Women,’ embracing Abigail Adams’s counsel to John—‘remember the ladies.’ And high time, too!”
—Lesley S. Herrmann, Executive Director, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

“These books are, above all, fascinating stories that will engage and inspire readers. They offer a glimpse into the lives of key women in history who either defied tradition or who successfully maneuvered in a man’s world to make an impact. The stories of these vital contributors to American history deliver just the right formula for instructors looking to provide a more complicated and nuanced view of history.”
—Rosanne Lichatin, 2005 Gilder Lehrman Preserve America History Teacher of the Year

“Students both in the general survey course and in specialized offerings like my course on U.S. women’s history can get a great understanding of an era from a short biography. Learning a lot about a single but complex character really helps to deepen appreciation of what women’s lives were like in the past.”
—Patricia Cline Cohen, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Biographies are, indeed, back. Not only will students read them, biographies provide an easy way to demonstrate particularly important historical themes or ideas. . . . Undergraduate readers will be challenged to think more deeply about what it means to be a woman, citizen, and political actor. . . . I am eager to use this in my undergraduate survey and specialty course.”
—Jennifer Thigpen, Washington State University, Pullman

“The Lives of American Women authors raise all of the big issues I want my classes to confront—and deftly fold their arguments into riveting narratives that maintain students’ excitement.”
—Woody Holton, author of Abigail Adams

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