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Catalog Archive / Fall 2022

As Told by Herself
Women’s Childhood Autobiography, 1845–1969

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

“This is a comprehensive, insightful literary history of women’s autobiographies of childhood. Thoroughly researched, highly original, and persuasive, As Told by Herself: Women’s Childhood Autobiography, 1845–1969 addresses a significant scholarly gap in very productive and important ways.”
—Kate Douglas, author of Contesting Childhood: Autobiography, Trauma and Memory

125 years of women writing about their girlhoods

As Told by Herself offers the first systematic study of women's autobiographical writing about childhood. More than 175 works—primarily from English-speaking countries and France, as well as other European countries—are presented here in historical sequence, allowing Lorna Martens to discern and reveal patterns as they emerge and change over time. What do the authors divulge, conceal, and emphasize? How do they understand the experience of growing up as girls? How do they understand themselves as parts of family or social groups, and what role do other individuals play in their recollections? To what extent do they concern themselves with issues of memory, truth, and fictionalization?

Stopping just before second-wave feminism brought an explosion in women's childhood autobiographical writing, As Told by Herself explores the genre's roots and development from the mid-nineteenth century, and recovers many works that have been neglected or forgotten. The result illustrates how previous generations of women—in a variety of places and circumstances—understood themselves and their upbringing, and how they thought to present themselves to contemporary and future readers.


Lorna Martens is a professor of German and comparative literature at the University of Virginia and is the author of several books, including The Promise of Memory: Childhood Recollection and Its Objects in Literary Modernism.




“In this rich, empirical study, over one hundred years of women’s autobiographical writing is carefully curated and discussed. Accounting for broad historical as well as cultural shifts, Lorna Martens assembles a wonderfully substantial picture of the diverse ways in which women have self-consciously written about and represented their childhood self.”
—Kylie Cardell, author of Dear World: Contemporary Uses of the Diary

“One of the most pleasurable aspects of reading Martens’ jargon-free prose is her knack of summarizing themes or characteristics in a succinct, sometimes witty phrase, or pulling up short to ask herself (and the reader) a question. . . . Her encyclopaedic study ensures that we will never again overlook the importance of this genre, or its ability to recount extraordinary girlhoods.”
Life Writing

“[A] thoroughly researched and analyzed study. Including almost 200 narratives by professional women of letters in multiple languages over more than a century, the result is the first historical examination of the female childhood autobiography of its kind. . . . Martens’s rich cache of stories reveals new insight into women as they saw themselves. . . . Highly recommended.”
CHOICE Reviews



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Table of Contents



1 Beginnings: Women’s Childhood Autobiography Prior to World War I
2 The Interwar Years: Memoirs and Semi-Memoirs
3 The Interwar Years: The Golden Age of Psychological Self-Portraiture
4 Women’s Childhood Autobiography during World War II
5 Women’s Childhood Autobiography from the End of the Second World War through the 1960s

Bibliography of Women’s Childhood Autobiographies to 1969


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Whispers of Cruel Wrongs
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Edited by Mary Maillard

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Such Anxious Hours
Wisconsin Women’s Voices from the Civil War
Edited by Jo Ann Daly Carr

As Told by Herself: cover depicting a reflection of a shadowed figure over leaf-strewn water. The title text is written in white font, almost joining the sheen of light in the relfection.

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October 2022
LC: 2022000577 CT
328 pp. 6 x 9

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Casebound $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299339104
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