A Life in Motion by Florence Howe

31st Aug 2011


The focus on the early years of Florence Howe’s life and the way in which her early experiences informed and evolved into the foundations of The Feminist Press in the Family Girl section elevates A Life In Motion to the story of a life, rather than a simple factual account.

The founder of the feminist publishing house and emissary for empowerment has certainly led an exciting life, uniting adventure and academia, radical views and writing. Detail of the want and deprivation encountered is at times shocking, the perseverance striking, and the emotional turmoil all very real and it is this detail that enables the book to lift The Feminist Press from the corridors of the University of Chicago into a powerful force.

Much of the support for the book has praised the book’s role in telling a story of social emancipation, global feminism and intellectual development. This is all there, rich in detail, testimony to Miss Howe’s belief that ‘history is still our most important weapon.’

Eleven years in the making, this is an interesting look at a woman’s life and certainly reinforces the belief that for some at least, the personal has had a hugely political impact.

Although it may be verboten as a female writer, I don’t really think of myself as a feminist. The advantage of this of course is that I can review Florence Howe’s A Life In Motion from a literary perspective, rather than through the rosy glasses of a political agenda.

It does however mean that my interest levels began to wane, and I feel the book is a bit long for the casual reader. As such its potential power to spread the word amongst those who are unaware of The Feminist Press, and change the impression of feminism from a bra-burning political version of PMT to a belief system and way of the world, is limited.

Published in May, you can buy it in paperback for £15.29.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended for: Those who like this kind of thing. Those who are interested but not obsessed may prefer a more potted history, or to dip into chapters.

Other recommended reading: Marilyn French‘s The Women’s Room, Silences by Tillie Olsen, and Just As I Thought by Grace Paley.

Francesca Baker