Publication Date

September 11, 2012

Perspectives Section


As a service to AHA members, we periodically list books by members received in the headquarters office in recent months. These postings are meant to announce their publication and provide short descriptions of the books. These are not reviews. For books to be reviewed in the American Historical Review they must be sent to the attention of Moureen Coulter, 914 Atwater, Bloomington, IN 47401.

Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State by Eileen Boris and Jennifer Kline (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012).

The history of long-term home care workers reveals a systematic devaluing of their vital labor, argue Eileen Boris (Univ. of California Santa Barbara) and Jennifer Klein (Yale Univ.). As the profession became increasingly associated with the federal government after the New Deal, the federal government assigned home care to those it deemed in need of social rehabilitation. “From the 1930s on, each generation of government officials and public welfare professionals clung to the premise that poor single mothers could end their own dependency on welfare by maintaining the independence of those incapacitated through no fault of their own—that is by performing care work.” This helped to make home care a “racialized, gendered occupation,” one that “reduced [poor women] to the social status of servants.”

But these workers responded with a vigorous social movement in the 1960s and 1970s: “Organizing in the streets, welfare offices, campuses, and state capitols, they pushed forward their own definitions of independence, dignity, access to public services and housing, and rights to support.” Boris and Kline find in this movement a challenge to “the standard categories of unionization” and a story of how “disparate movements finally came together at the end of the century and saw conditions of labor linked with conditions of care.”

Eileen Boris’s Home to Work: Motherhood and The Politics of Industrial Homework in the United States won the 1995 Philip Taft Prize in Labor History. Jennifer Klein won the 2004 Hagley Prize for best book in business history for For All These Rights: Business, Labor, and the Shaping of America’s Public-Private Welfare State.

We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 by William J. Cooper (Alfred Knopf Press, 2012)

Historians widely accept that the Civil War is a defining moment in the history of the United States. It guaranteed the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery, with the cost of more than 750,000 men and great many more wounded. William J. Cooper, Boyd Professor at Louisiana State University, attempts to understand the chaotic months between the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 and the outbreak of war in April 1861, where compromise failed and sectional extremism won.

In this book, Cooper writes a detailed account of the North and the South, Democrats and Republicans, and radical and conservative sectionalists. Cooper finds that while sectional extremists promoted war to their colleagues, the war was not viewed as inevitable for the majority of Americans, an important distinction in Civil War historiography. Cooper writes in the preface, “In the months between the election of the Republican Abraham Lincoln as president in November 1860 and the outbreak of hostilities in April 1861, no one knew whether war would occur, or if it did, no one could foresee the price, course, or result of that war. Even those who did expect armed conflict, a few excitedly, more fearfully, had no conception of its magnitude.” 

William J. Cooper is the author of The Conservative Regime: South Carolina, 1877–1890; The South and the Politics of Slavery, 1828–1856; Liberty and Slavery: Southern Politics to 1860; Jefferson Davis, American; Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography; and coauthor of The American South: A History. He has been an AHA member since 1978.

Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the “Jewish Vote” and Bipartisan Support for Israel by Sonja Schoepf Wentling and Rafael Medoff (Wyman Institute, 2012).

Herbert Hoover, rarely mentioned in discussions of American Jewish politics, Zionism, or international humanitarianism, was a principled supporter of American and European Jews and an early supporter of a more active U.S. response to the Holocaust, argue Sonja Schoepf Wentling (Concordia College) and Rafael Medoff (The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies). The book details, among other events in Hoover’s long post-presidential career, his support for legislation to admit Jewish refugees to the US in 1939, his attempts to bring the Holocaust to public attention, and his efforts to have a plank on the creation of a Jewish state included in the 1944 GOP platform. Among both Republican and Democratic supporters of the formation of Israel as a Jewish state, the authors argue that the most vociferous, including Hoover, were motivated by principle rather than electoral considerations.

Beyond the Half-Way Covenant: Solomon Stoddard’s Understanding of the Lord’s Supper as a Converting Ordinance by David Paul McDowell (WIPF & Stock, 2012).

From the Publisher’s summary: “Almost everyone has heard of Jonathan Edwards, but very few are familiar with Solomon Stoddard, Edwards’s grandfather. Stoddard was an influential force in New England Puritanism, often referred to as the “Pope” of the Connecticut Valley of western Massachusetts. He was a powerful preacher who saw five (possibly six) revivals during his fifty-eight-year pastorate in Northampton. Yet, he has often been marginalized because of his very unique view of the Lord’s Supper as a “converting ordinance.” This book explores Stoddard’s view of Communion as compared to the changing face of Puritanism reflected in the Half-Way Covenant, and in the context of his passionate desire to convert the sinner by any means at his disposal. He believed that God was so gracious and sovereign that no one could judge whether a person was elect or not. Consequently, he crafted an evangelical theology based upon the preaching of the gospel and viewed the Lord’s Supper as another form of preaching for the conversion of sinners.”

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.