American women have been authors for more than three hundred and fifty years. Elaine Showalter's A Jury of Her Peers is quite astonishingly the first comprehensive history of these writers. Showalter is a literary critic celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic for her scholarship, wit and lucid prose. This prodigious undertaking reflects these qualities and moreover is written with a great generosity of spirit that leaves the reader inspired and humbled.
The book takes the form of a roughly chronological account of these women and their work. By the end, Showalter has traced a development from what she calls 'feminine' writing, which reflects already-established male traditions, to 'feminist' writing, which strives against the aforementioned, then 'female' writing, which is