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Images of Women

Explore the world of women in this state with two books:

"New Jersey Women: A History of Their Status, Roles, and Images"

and "Through the Eyes of Women of the Twentieth Century."

The first, by Carmela Ascolese Karnoutsos, published in 1997 by the

New Jersey Historical Commission, covers four centuries of how women

achieved better lives for themselves in the home, in factories, and

society — and how they changed history. The second, "Through

the Eyes of Women," is an anthology with contributions from writers

age 9 to 76, and it is edited by Jacqueline Jacobson Pliskin of Words

and Pictures Publishing in East Brunswick.

Karnoutsos, a professor at Jersey City State College, offers statistics:

"In 1986 55 percent of all American women were in the work force;

45.9 percent (1.6 million) of New Jersey women were employed, keeping

pace with the national trend. One in six families was headed by a

woman. A majority worked in what has become traditional women’s employment.

However, women have also entered the professional fields of medicine

and law and the new high technology industries."

More interesting are her historical vignettes. Here are excerpts from

her accounts of three of New Jersey’s female reformers:

Betsey Stockton, born a slave in 1798, was freed in 1818

by her master, the Reverend Ashbel Green, president of the College

of New Jersey (later Princeton University). She continued to work

as a domestic in the Green household until 1822, when she traveled

as a missionary with a white family to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).

Stockton returned to Princeton in 19833, helped found the Witherspoon

Street Church (Presbyterian), taught black children in a public or

common school, and promoted a night school for black adults in the

Princeton community.

Clara Barton established one of the first free public

schools in New Jersey and in the nation in 1853. "In two years

enrollment at Barton’s school grew from 6 to 600. Bordentown had been

happy to let Barton build the school, but once she had made the school

so large, the authorities decided that it should be run by a man.

When a male principal was chosen, Barton, who after 20 years of teaching

was experiencing difficulties with her voice, resigned her post. She

left New Jersey and later became known for her work as a nurse during

the Civil War and organized the first Red Cross Society in America.

Dorothea Lynde Dix challenged the manner of institutional

care of the mentally ill. Dix began her drive for a state hospital

with an intense public relations campaign. First she had to convince

both health officials and the public that mental illness was better

treated in a hospital than a prison. Then she had to persuade legislators

that spending state funds for a state hospital would have long-range

value. This required considerable political skill. Within three months

Dix had succeeded and the legislature passed the necessary bill.

"New Jersey Women" is the ninth in a 10-volume series,

which also includes books about the state in wartime, the state’s

Native Americans, the economy, ethnicity and immigration, architecture,

workers, arts and entertainment, the environment, society, and politics

and government. For ordering information call 609-292-6062.

Pliskin’s anthology has artwork, poetry, and essays that span the

changing times from the turn of the century to the on-line cyber environment

of today. "Some stories deal with women finding their place in

life and recovering their innate value as human beings — from

women who have gained their voice in the vote to those who own and

run their own business," says Pliskin. Both subjects and quality

vary widely, and many of the more compelling accounts, including an

amazing "lost child" coincidence story, are Pliskin’s own.

To order the book call 732-254-9262.

— Barbara Figge Fox


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