An illuminating series of crisp, lively portraits of "enterprising" American women--from Colonial days when Mary Goddard printed the Declaration of Independence to Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post (in a sense Goddard's 1976 counterpart). Even when the biographical material is skimpy Ms. Bird manages to convey the personal impact of both the famous and the unknown women within the context of prevailing sex roles and cultural attitudes. Among the portraits: innovators in education and business, nurses and social workers, "confidence builders" like Mary Baker Eddy and Lydia Pinkham (her original compound contained exotic Caribbean ingredients and 18 percent alcohol), writers, medical pioneers, and even brothel owners. The author concludes that the careers she discusses have certain prerequisites: access to books and ideas; family or, these days, cultural support; freedom from pregnancy (many were widows or unmarried); and often, in the past, the spur of domestic crisis. Ms. Bird takes historical currents where they lead her (a fine side trip into Colonial printing) and there's an unhurried, non-didactic tone which makes this a decided pleasure to read.