Book Review: In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice Against Women edited by S.T. Joshi

“The more things change, the more they stay the same” is the well-used adage that continues to ring true today as S.T. Joshi illustrates in this compilation of writings on a woman’s place, drawn from predominately American writers between the mid-1800’s to 1973. Throughout history, women have long been the objects of both overt and unconscious prejudice often with the blessing of religious doctrine as evidenced by reaction to the newly developed vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Instead of being heralded as a major medical breakthrough in women’s health care, news of the vaccine has been greeted with consternation. Religious leaders fear the moral message administering this life saving vaccine is sending young women, spinning a disease prevention issue into a fear of promiscuous sexual relations. Notice how little attention has been given young men’s role in possible disease transmission. This attitude is not so different from the assertion that women should not engage in stressful mental or physical activities because it may inhibit fertility, a theory expounded upon by a Harvard graduate and doctor in 1873.

This suppression of women’s equality is at the heart of these writings which expound on the supposed intellectual deficiencies, lack of drive, initiative, creativity and physical strength to cope in a man’s world, which today may seem laughable until one examines how carryovers of these theories continue to permeate society. Look no further then the pay scale, promotion rate and pregnancy bias to find ample evidence that gender prejudice is alive and well. Reading these exposés is an eye opening look into the mindset and roots of this ancient bias, they show how very far we have come in some ways, yet as is evidenced by the knee jerk reactions to nontraditional gender preferences, these also demonstrate how far this conservative culture has to go before true equality may be realized.

Joshi, author of Documents of American Prejudice and God’s Defender: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong believes that racism, religious intolerance and sexism are the greatest evils challenging the world. In Her Place concludes his trilogy that examines each of these issues, ferreting out long lost monographs that make for some tooth grindingly annoying reading as the patronizing tone can’t help but irritate and yet that is precisely the point of this occasionally slow, always eye-opening look at gender bias. 


Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.