Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gail Collins: When Everything Changed

Her subtitle accurately describes the book: "The amazing journey of American women from 1960 to the present." Since this also describes my life from college graduation onward, I read it avidly, nodding and muttering with each of her examples. Collins begins with the experience of a secretary trying to pay her boss's traffic ticket (ok, it's 1960, so the situation -- a secretary trundling down to court to do an errand for her boss -- seems archaic now). But she is wearing slacks, so the judge sends her home to change her clothes. Instead, she gives the ticket to her new husband and he pays the fine. At this point the judge lectures HIM about taking more control over his wife's behavior!

The subsequent chapters, on the growth of feminism, on job discrimination, civil rights, education provide the details which paint the nuanced picture of the changes in the lives of American women of all races and classes. It's sad to learn how many of our leading women died before the changes they had sought. One woman I hadn't studied before was Alice Paul, author of the Equal Rights Amendment. Did you know that it was re-introduced in the House of Representatives just last summer? Here's a good link: http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/

This book is written in an entertaining and thoughtful voice. Gail Collins is one of the regular columnists on the New York Times, and has been editorial page editor (the first woman to hold that job). Go find the book and read it, and share it with your daughters!


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