Picks and Pans Review: Lighting the Way

updated 02/27/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/27/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Karenna Gore Schiff

Schiff, who is the oldest child of Al and Tipper Gore, chronicles the lives of nine American heroines in Lighting the Way. These are women you probably haven't heard of: Ida Wells-Barnett, who was born into slavery and became a crusading journalist; Alice Hamilton, a physician who fought to protect workers against industrial poisons; and Virginia Durr, a white woman who battled segregation in her native Alabama in the 1950s. Schiff places her characters in historical context and has an eye for the telling moment. In the Wells-Barnett profile, she quotes a vituperative reply to one of her subject's pseudonymous editorials in a black newspaper about lynchings in Memphis. Assuming that the author is a man, a rival white newspaper declares, "The fact that a black scoundrel is allowed to live and utter such loathsome and repulsive calumnies is a volume of evidence as to the wonderful patience of Southern whites." These are stories worth telling, and Schiff does them proud.

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