Women's Work: The First 20, 000 Years - Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times

Women's Work: The First 20, 000 Years - Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times


By (author) Elizabeth Wayland Barber


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  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Format: Paperback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 206mm x 23mm | 272g
  • Publication date: 17 January 1996
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0393313484
  • ISBN 13: 9780393313482
  • Edition statement: Revised ed.
  • Illustrations note: photographs, drawings
  • Sales rank: 63,566

Product description

New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies. Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women. Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture. Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods-methods she herself helped to fashion. In a "brilliantly original book" (Katha Pollitt, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.

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Author information

Elizabeth Wayland Barber is the author of Women's Work and The Mummies of Urumchi. Professor emerita of archaeology and linguistics at Occidental College, she lives in California.

Editorial reviews

Don't be put off by the dullish title: this is as lively to read as a personal diary and as exciting as a treasure hunt. Using mythological, literary and archaeological evidence, it traces the lost history of women's contribution to the textile industry and illuminates the way they lived. Barber learnt her love of textiles from watching her mother spin and weave. In the course of her quest she toured museums all over the world, danced about in Macedonian girdles to feel how their fringes moved ('I felt exhilarated, powerful; I wanted to make them swish and jump'), and re-created a 3000 year old Celtic plaid on her own loom. (Kirkus UK)