The biographical information Barnet presents isn't necessarily new; several biographies have been written about each of these women. Instead she offers a fresh analysis of why they came to prominence at the time they did, and how their habits of mind matched up in startling ways despite their having never met ... Food chains, neighborhoods, chimpanzee communities, even gardens operate as webs of communication and relationships that humans in the 1950s and early '60s had yet to sufficiently understand. By making those links visible, Barnet argues, these women brought about shifts in awareness that indeed changed the world.
Visionary Women is a fine book, a thorough examination of the life and work of four fascinating women. At times, it overstates the case that the women were the prime movers behind movements ... The book contains four thorough biographies, each of which could stand alone and be judged superb. But there is added power in the fact that each of the subjects worked generally on ideas that stressed a return to a more natural and humane way of life, a way of life that is threatened by the frightening march of technology ... Barnet has added greatly to our understanding of the way human beings with a vision can change society for the better by pursuing their dreams.
Beyond their iconoclasm and remarkably supportive families — and of course, their gender — the main biographical trait these women share is that they all are white ... Barnet, whose previous book was about the women of Greenwich Village and Harlem in the 1910s and ’20s, acknowledges that the cliche of the suburban American Dream was based on segregation and exclusion ... yet we don’t hear voices from communities of color — the main targets of urban-renewal policies. Barnet might have noted, in her discussion of the rise of agribusiness, that the patterns of racial exclusion that created the suburbs also affected rural areas, with black farmers routinely denied federal assistance to save their businesses ... Still, Barnet makes a powerful case for a shared perspective among her subjects ... All four women learned by immersing themselves in their environment and letting their eyes lead the way.
Visionary Women expertly makes the connections between these women's monumental cultural impact ... Barnet is careful to include how each woman's work 'emphasized the interconnectedness that undergirded the living world' ... Interconnection is essential to how readers understand the past but also how Carson, Jacobs, Goodall, and Waters influenced our present ... However, including women of color who also produced radical results would have made the text stronger. The subject matter is very narrow and reiterates some of the mistakes initially made by second wave feminism ... Barnet is an engaging writer and Visionary Women is entertaining, informative and inspiring
With both resonant detail and purposeful distillation, Barnet tells their dramatic stories within the context of the counterculture of 50 years ago, charts the ongoing vitality and influence of their compassionate visions, and asks if we will yet accomplish what these four 'accidental revolutionaries' call on us to do to preserve the web of life.
The overlaps seem predictable: like many successful women, each was hardworking, determined, strong-willed, and intelligent. Encountering derision by powerful men, they 'tenaciously stood their ground.' However, their personalities were vastly dissimilar, and Barnet strains to find convergences ... Informative biographical essays of influential women.