When Everything Changed
Oh FTC, you’re gonna love this one: I bought this book (in hardback, no less) because it looked so awesome. And then I won a copy as part of BBAW. But I gave my extra copy to a friend. Whattaya gonna do about that, huh?
Synopsis (from Barnes and Noble):
Picking up where her previous successful and highly lauded book, America’s Women, left off, Gail Collins recounts the sea change women have experienced since 1960. A comprehensive mix of oral history and Collins’s keen research, this is the definitive book about five crucial decades of progress, told with the down-to-earth, amusing, and agenda-free tone this beloved New York Times columnist is known for. The interviews with women who have lived through these transformative years include an advertising executive in the 60s who was not allowed to attend board meetings that took place in the all-male dining room; and an airline stewardess who remembered being required to bend over to light her passengers’ cigars on the men-only ‘Executive Flight’ from New York to Chicago.
We, too, may have forgotten the enormous strides made by women since 1960–and the rare setbacks. “Hell yes, we have a quota [7%]” said a medical school dean in 1961. “We do keep women out, when we can.” At a pre-graduation party at Barnard College, “they handed corsages to the girls who were engaged and lemons to those who weren’t.” In 1960, two-thirds of women 18-60 surveyed by Gallup didn’t approve of the idea of a female president. Until 1972, no woman ran in the Boston Marathon, the year when Title IX passed, requiring parity for boys and girls in school athletic programs (and also the year after Nixon vetoed the childcare legislation passed by congress). What happened during the past fifty years–a period that led to the first woman’s winning a Presidential Primary–and why? The cataclysmic change in the lives of American women is a story Gail Collins seems to have been born to tell.
Months ago I started listening to the audio book of The Feminine Mystique. While initially interesting, after what seemed like eons later (but was really only 5 hours of listening) I realized that it felt like I was hearing the same stories over and over (Friedan includes a lot of commentary from women that she interviewed). And Parker Posey’s (the narrator) voice was Extremely Irritating. Also, the term preaching to the choir is applicable here. So the thought of listening to 10 more hours of Parker reciting even more anecdotes was just more than I could bear. Even though this a feminist classic that I felt like I should read.
But then I saw When Everything Changed in the bookstore and I thought it would be the perfect alternative. And it was. Although it is a bit similar in style (it is filled with first hand accounts), which had the unfortunate consequence of me hearing Parker Posey’s voice as I was reading. Aaaaaggghhh!! I swear I was probably 1/3 of the way through the book before I could shake her. However, the big difference was this book has variety. And it’s current, as it looks at the past 50 years of women’s history. In contrast, Friedan’s book, although revolutionary in the 1960s, was a reaction to women’s lives in the ’50 and ‘60s, and is therefore somewhat dated. When Everything Changed, on the other hand, is not a reaction. It is history, but an interesting history comprised of first hand accounts that provide a powerful illustration of how much has changed.
There is a TON of information in this book, making it somewhat difficult to review (and also, occasionally, just a wee bit clunky to read…but only occasionally!). However, I highly, highly recommend it, especially if you’re participating in the Women Unbound Reading Challenge.