Two books depict women in black America and Colonial era

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Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present, by Jacqueline Jones. New York: Vintage. 432 pp. Illustrated. $10.95. Paperback. This comprehensive, prize-winning study combines insightful analysis with vivid depictions of the concrete experiences of individual women. Spanning the years from slavery to the present, it covers all kinds of work, from slave labor to paid factory work, from freely given, unpaid work within the black family to domestic service outside the family, from farming to handicrafts to the professional careers of teachers, writers, artists, and entertainers. Nor does it neglect the crucial role of black women in working for the civil rights movement. Jones, who teaches American history at Wellesley College, provides commentary that is trenchant, thought-provoking, but never merely tendentious. The Journal of Esther Edwards Burr, 1754-1757, edited, with an introduction by Carol F. Karlsen and Laurie Crumpacker. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 318 pp. $12.95. Paperback.

Mother of the notorious Aaron Burr and daughter of the famous evangelical preacher Jonathan Edwards, Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758) began her journal after marriage brought her from her native Massachusetts to the wilds of New Jersey. The journal, actually a series of letters to her closest friend, Sarah Prince, illustrates the quality of ``sisterly'' relationships among Colonial women eager to improve themselves and make sense of their lives in a society that encouraged them to perceive themselves as ``exemplary,'' but which restricted their participation. The journal shows Esther more as her father's daughter than as her son's mother. Neither she nor her husband lived long enough to raise their children, but Esther does note prophetically that her son ``is very resolute and requires a good Governor to bring him to terms.''

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