Must Read Book

Bennett, Judith M., Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women's Work in a Changing World (1997).

My current favorite book is Judith M. Bennett's Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women's Work in a Changing World, for a number of reasons. First, because if I had it to do over I would probably study medieval history and I would love to have written this book. Second, because it is so marvelously well written; the people in the story leap off the page. Third, because it weaves together so many strands of historical change and helps us to understand how large historical forces were refracted through very particular lives. Fourth, because of the broad reach of Bennett's research and her skill at teasing meanings out of so many different kinds of sources. Fifth, because it is a case study exploring Bennett's brilliant formulation of change vs. transformation. I find myself thinking about the book and its arguments in many historical contexts far removed from medieval England and from gender. It's helping me, at the moment, to think about race, class, and wage work in the 20th-century USA.

Recommended by Susan Porter Benson, University of Connecticut

Susan Porter Benson teaches women's and working-class history at the University of Connecticut. She is completing a book, Household Accounts: Working-Class Family Economies in the Interwar USA, to be published by Cornell University Press in 2003. Her next project will look at working-class women's ideas about wage-earning, 1925-1935.