"The author seeks . . . to provide, and does so quite compellingly, an examination of why certain questions were asked, which in turn then generated those numbers, and the ways in which those questions changed over time, thus shaping the representation of women within this official historical record. . . . . [I]t is especially intriguing to see how the author clarifies the impact of changing occupations and new technologies and how they affected women at work, and the need to be able to provide data to effect social change. . . . Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries."
"Some questions have no accurate answers. This is especially true of government statistics on women, as Lopresti demonstrates this beautifully in When Women Didn’t Count. . His treatise on the subject is enlightening. . . . This book is an important work that sheds light on the sexism that permeates our statistics, even as recently as the last decade."
"In nearly every chapter consumers of federal statistics can find important lessons, many of which make it clear that the 'hardness' of numbers often is illusory. . . . In a captivating and often humorous way, Lopresti’s documentation of the 'mismeasuring' of women in federal statistics provides a succinct history of women’s changing role in American society."
"We live in a world of data, and navigating the plethora of numbers is a daunting task in the best of cases. In cases where social, ideological, and political issues shape what’s collected and why, the silences, confusions, omissions, and biases can discourage even the most dedicated data adventurer.
Robert Lopresti has come to the rescue of researchers looking for data on the situation of women in U.S. federal statistics since 1790. He has produced a comprehensive catalog of sources, subjects, and supporting literature, and organized the material into a accessible chapters by subject. Extensive footnotes and bibliography take the reader to additional information.
This is an essential book for anyone asking questions about data on women. Lopresti also explains how and why the data came to be as they are. No more, 'lies, damn lies, and statistics.' We can see how the history of women in America can be read through the federal statistical data collections, and even how the 'mismeasurement,' as he puts it, can help us understand the long struggle for the emancipation of women."
"In ways we are not conscious of, decisions we make about what information to compile about people’s lives and how to store and present that information will influence how our lives will be perceived 100 or 200 years from now. In the same way, decisions made 100 or 200 years ago about what information to gather—largely by the U.S. Bureau of the Census—shape how we perceive the lives of the people who lived then, and how (and how much) they have changed. Robert Lopresti has taken a long, careful look at the Census data on women’s lives (and by extension, everyone’s lives), and what his work reveals seems to me to be essential for historians and readers of history interested in understanding those lives and in understanding how our lives are different."
"When Women Didn’t Count is a highly readable, thought-provoking investigation of U.S. federal government statistics gathering about women. Synthesizing sources such as instructions to Census enumerators about determining marital status, technical documentation with hypotheses on data limitations, and contemporary feminist scholarship, Rob Lopresti paints a vivid picture of misrepresentation and gender role reinforcement that is as American as apple pie. With an uncanny sensitivity about the nuances of government literature drawn from his longtime role as a federal documents librarian, the author leaves us more deeply informed about our statistical surroundings, and many of the ways in which we got here. Librarians, teachers, and scholars working in the areas of U.S. history, gender studies, social sciences, and cultural studies will find this to be an incredibly useful text."