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Popular Features. New Releases. 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.

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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. Excellent book on the origins and development of spinning and weaving in Middle East and Europe.

Literature: Women's Work by Elizabeth Wayland Barber | stitching worlds

Barber, an archeologist and weaver, has an engaging style. She not only tells us what we know about the early history of weaving, she shows us how we know. She is also very apolitical in her approach; she neither praises nor condemns the treatment of women throughout this early period of history Neolithic to the Iron Age.

She restricts herself to the data. Highly recommended for those intereste Excellent book on the origins and development of spinning and weaving in Middle East and Europe. Highly recommended for those interested in social history, textiles, and women's history. Aug 19, Joyce rated it it was amazing. Wonderful book, full of insights.

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Women's role changes through history, but the constant is that women have the primary responsibility of early childhood rearing. Women's work always has to be something that could be combined with a safe atmosphere for the children. When farming was done with little more than sticks, farming was women's work. When farming was done with horses and a metal plow, farming was too dangerous for the children, so it became men's work. So pragmatic. Apr 18, Holly rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , feminism-and-gender. I love this book--very informative and interesting simply for the way the author approaches research.

Anyone who wears clothes or uses sheets or towels or any other sort of textiles should read this. Jul 24, skein rated it liked it Shelves: 3-star , non-fiction , This book is lauded in crafty-fiber circles, apparently for being the only one of its kind to focus on women's history rather than for giving any great insight about archaeology or, you know, the titular women's work.

I mean, okay, it's still interesting and informative and fairly well-written. But it's more "non-fiction" than "scholarly", and I took off a star for that; there isn't enough meat on these bones, not enough exploration or discussion. Some parts are deeply repetitive and some parts b This book is lauded in crafty-fiber circles, apparently for being the only one of its kind to focus on women's history rather than for giving any great insight about archaeology or, you know, the titular women's work. Some parts are deeply repetitive and some parts build off each other, so it doesn't pay to read straight through and it doesn't pay to pick and choose chapters that's another star gone.

The author learned to weave as a child, and it shows. She probably knows how to spin, too -- there's some familiarity with spindles -- but I am a spinner myself and her explanations gave up more questions than answers.

She says this low-whorl type of spindle is suited for wool, and this high-whorl one for flax -- well, why? I've spun both fibers on a drop-spindle; I prefer low-whorl, but there is no real difference that can't be adapted for by using different techniques, like starting the spin between your hands rather than twisting with your fingers. She says the Egyptians "spliced" the flax before spinning -- how? Why add the extra step? Europeans spun both flax and wool using a distaff.

I imagine it gives a stronger, finer thread -- but without trying, there's no way to know. Barber spends the final chapter reminding us that we don't know the limits of our knowledge; there are questions we never think to ask. I know a little bit about spinning and it opened a hundred holes in her writing. What else am I too ignorant to question?

Women's work : the first 20,000 years : women, cloth, and society in early times

Nov 23, Dymphy rated it really liked it Shelves: celts , mythology , archeology , history , textile , my-recommendations. Women's wok by Elizabeth Barber is truly one astonishing read. In this book, Barber explaines the role of women in the prehistoric era by letting their main craft speak for them: weaving cloth. Quite a lot of societies are included, such as the prehistoric syrians, greeks and egyptians. Based on archeological, ethnological, linguistic and mythological evidence, Barber weaves an story about women and cloth. What I love about this book is because this book is easy to read and doesn't require much k Women's wok by Elizabeth Barber is truly one astonishing read.

What I love about this book is because this book is easy to read and doesn't require much knowledge beforehand. Theories and hypothesis are well explained, and the topics the author covers, long bogged my mind. Why were there stringskirts? Why was the main occupation of women weaving and cooking? Next to it, it gives an outstanding view of the prehistorical societies by focussing at daily life and not on wars although there are some mentioned. Honestly, this is one of the most refreshing non-fiction books I've read in years - and I consider this book a must read for anyone who claims to be an history or textile fan.

Venus de Milo has lost her arms, but if you know what to look for, you can tell that she was spinning. This wonderful book is a master course in getting the maximum amount of information from the tiniest bits of surviving evidence -- archaeological, linguistic, textual, artistic, etc. Even present day activities can help us interpret ancient ones. I responded to this book as a quilter, who works with textiles; as a woman, who is habitually left out of history books; and as a person, who is dazzl Venus de Milo has lost her arms, but if you know what to look for, you can tell that she was spinning.

I responded to this book as a quilter, who works with textiles; as a woman, who is habitually left out of history books; and as a person, who is dazzled by the myriad detective skills needed to delve into our ancient past. Jul 13, Kirsten rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction. Women's history and textiles! This is my wheelhouse. A very readable interesting examination of textiles and what we can deduce about them and about the women almost always women who made them. May 16, Christine rated it really liked it Recommends it for: women who love handwork.

Womens Work: The First 20000 Years Women Cloth And Society In Early Times

I love handwork and this book helped me understand the history of women and textiles, fabrics, threads, yarns of all kinds. I felt connected to the sisterhood of women through the ages! Sep 27, MJ rated it really liked it Shelves: read-for-school. Read for my thesis. Really great collection of material but I wish she'd organized the book a little better once it got past ancient Crete.


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Nov 24, Pancha rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction. A fascinating look at human history told through weaving. Aug 25, Erin rated it really liked it Shelves: history , non-fiction , read-in-print.


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What an interesting read! Barber introduces her book with a very relevant story that also proves why she is the perfect choice to tell it. She weaves as a hobby, a profession that women have undertaken for many, many thousands of years. But as Barber shows, women have been weaving for thousands of years, and academia has traditionally been male for reference, the publish dat What an interesting read! But as Barber shows, women have been weaving for thousands of years, and academia has traditionally been male for reference, the publish date of this book is Her postscript also calls out a tradition in academia to not attempt the craft to understand the difficulties ancient peoples would have experienced, and therefore likely draw incorrect conclusions.

It would just say that somebody drove somewhere. Her interest is obviously more towards the mechanics of weaving, such as the making of yarn, technological advancements to ease the craft and how they spread across the world. There are a few offhand comments that they're also making food, but not in any kind of detail. So while I appreciated the stories we got, I think I would have liked some more on all of the professions available to women. Obviously cloth-making was tremendously important consider the fact that even noblewomen wove or embroidered.

Barber postulates that women end up in the home because they need duties that are easy to put down to go deal with childcare. I can accept that hypothesis, but there absolutely has to be more to that life than just spinning or weaving. In summary: good talk on the mechanics of weaving, I would have preferred more on actual treatment of women. Nov 22, Sally added it Shelves: postponed , history , arts. I read the first few chapters, then my daughter saw it and wanted to read it, which she did.

Her view: that it was a good book, though it helped to have some background in weaving, but as she had a lot of background she thought she'd prefer Barber's academic text on the subject- which she then got by interlibrary loan. I hope sometime to pick this book up again to find out about women's lives and work in traditional societies, not being so interested in the a fabric arts per se.

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Mar 28, Alaine added it Shelves: unfinished. I really wanted to love this book but I guess it was on the dry side because every time I tried to read it, I fell asleep. Jul 31, Sandy H rated it it was amazing Shelves: non-fiction , women-s-issues , quiltmaking. For what seems like it would be a dusty, dry, academic tome, Women's Work was really quite an enjoyable read.