One of the most important American women of color, Jennifer Katharine Gates was an educationist. She earned a Ph.D in Education at Harvard University and taught for many years at the University of Michigan. Her extensive research on education reform and school vouchers has influenced educational reform throughout the country. This impressive background makes her a valuable contributor to an otherwise neglected area of American business.

A biography is usually a good place to start when delving into a person’s life. Gates is no exception. This easy to read book provides insights into her upbringing, her early struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction and her overall view of education. The fact that she took on a difficult personal challenge at such a young age and completed an education at the University of Michigan highlights her determination and her brilliance as an educator. In this charming little book, Gates reveals the personal characteristics that have contributed to her success as an entrepreneur and as a mother.

Much of what was learned in this book can be applied today as administrators seek to implement similar strategies in the classroom and in private schools. The tenacious Gates retained her integrity long after getting out of college to pursue an education degree and to help reform educational policies in cities like Seattle, Los Angeles and Chicago. As a city mayor, she fought for more affordable housing and helped to create the D.C. Opportunity Fund that is now part of the Department of Education. While these positions require an official role, much of the content in Personal History is focused on her personal life and how she used these experiences to influence education policies and to become an important and influential philanthropist.

The tenacity with which Gates pursued her education career is admirable. She repeatedly went back to school to earn her Master of Education, her doctorate and her Ph.D. The breadth and depth of her education are both amazing and surprising considering how young she was when she began. Personal History is not just a biography of one of the most successful females ever to hold the top position at Harvard, but it is a fascinating view into the mind of one of the country’s most prolific and important leaders.

I especially appreciate the portions written about Gates’ relationship with her mother and how this reflected on her education. Gates maintained an intense and supportive relationship with her mother, even while attending the University of Virginia. The publication of this book provides an insight into a life that was so different from those of her parents and siblings. The intimate details are interesting and illuminate the personal connection between mother and daughter. The publication is organized chronologically by Gates’ graduation from Harvard, with chapters focusing on key moments in her education and career.

This is a quick book to read, even for someone who spends her days on computers and in the university research field. However, there is something impressive about a woman who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics and then worked her way through school and government before finally finding her way into politics. Personal History by Jennifer Jaros Goses is clearly aimed at a female audience. The writing style is clear without being simplistic and the author takes the reader through her chronological events in an easy-to-read fashion. One of the best things about this book is that it is not only an impressive history of one of the most influential women in history, but also a very positive message for today.