Synopses & Reviews
tells the story of more than four centuries of history. It features a stunning array of personalities, from the women peering worriedly over the side of the Mayflower to feminists having a grand old time protesting beauty pageants and bridal fairs. Courageous, silly, funny, and heartbreaking, these women shaped the nation and our vision of what it means to be female in America.
By culling the most fascinating characters -- the average as well as the celebrated -- Gail Collins, the editorial page editor at the New York Times, charts a journey that shows how women lived, what they cared about, and how they felt about marriage, sex, and work. She begins with the lost colony of Roanoke and the early southern "tobacco brides" who came looking for a husband and sometimes -- thanks to the stupendously high mortality rate -- wound up marrying their way through three or four. Spanning wars, the pioneering days, the fight for suffrage, the Depression, the era of Rosie the Riveter, the civil rights movement, and the feminist rebellion of the 1970s, America's Women describes the way women's lives were altered by dress fashions, medical advances, rules of hygiene, social theories about sex and courtship, and the ever-changing attitudes toward education, work, and politics. While keeping her eye on the big picture, Collins still notes that corsets and uncomfortable shoes mattered a lot, too.
"The history of American women is about the fight for freedom," Collins writes in her introduction, "but it's less a war against oppressive men than a struggle to straighten out the perpetually mixed message about women's roles that was accepted by almost everybody of both genders."
Told chronologically through the compelling stories of individual lives that, linked together, provide a complete picture of the American woman's experience, America's Women is both a great read and a landmark work of history.
"Collins's work is a fully accessible, and thoroughly enjoyable, primer of how American women have not only survived but thrived." Publishers Weekly
"If there is a villain in this tale she may just wear a skirt; as Collins sees it, we have repeatedly tripped ourselves up. The enemy is not so much the other half of the human race as the mixed messages, our love-hate relationship with hearth and home." The New York Times, Stacy Schiff
"In her lively and readable survey of women in America, Gail Collins shows how ideology about gender roles always gives way to economic necessity....Collins has an eye for such ironies and a good-humored way of presenting them." Phyllis Rose, The Washington Post
"Beginning with Eleanor Dare and her 1587 sail to the colonies and ending with the 1970s, Collins's work is a fully accessible, and thoroughly enjoyable, primer of how American women have not only survived but thrived." Publisher's Weekly
"Illuminating cultural history of American women from the first colonists to the present day....Collins (Scorpion Tongues, 1998) has turned a veritable mountain of research into an exceptionally readable, lively account of the contradictions and conflicts that have shaped womens roles in the US." Alice Martell, Kirkus Reviews
Includes bibliographical references (p. -540) and index.
About the Author
Gail Collins is the editorial page editor at the New York Times-- the first woman to hold this position. Prior to that, she was a columnist for the paper's op-ed page, a member of the editorial board, and a columnist for the New York Daily Newsand New York Newsday.She is the author of Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celebrityand American Politics.
Table of Contents
The first colonists: voluntary and otherwise -- The women of New England: goodwives, heretics, Indian captives, and witches -- Daily life in the colonies: housekeeping, children, and sex -- Toward the revolutionary war -- 1800-1860: true women, separate spheres, and many emergencies -- Life before the civil war: cleanliness and corsetry -- African American women: life in bondage -- Women and abolition: white and Black, north and south -- The civil war: nurses, wives, spies, and secret soldiers -- Women go west: pioneers, homesteaders, and the fair but frail -- The gilded age: stunts, shorthand, and study clubs -- Immigrants: discovering the "woman's country" -- Turn of the century: the arrival of the new woman -- Reforming the world: suffrage, temperance, and other causes -- The twenties: all the liberty you can use in the backseat of a Packard -- The Depression: Ma Perkins and Eleanor Roosevelt -- World War II: "she's making history, working for victory" -- The fifties: life at the far end of the pendulum -- The sixties: the pendulum swings back with a vengeance.