Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present

No one objects to my wearing trousers.

That sounds silly, doesn't it?  But in 1960, Lois Rabinowitz tried to pay her husband's parking ticket while wearing slacks and the judge threw her out of the courtroom.  The judge later lectured Mr. Rabinowitz on what he should do to control his wife.  55 years ago, in a world we'd mostly recognize, and a woman couldn't wear pants to traffic court.  It's a small victory, but I think that's why Gail Collins chose to open When Everything Changed with that story.  We've made great (although not complete) advances in women's place in society, but some of the "little things" have major day-to-day impact.

From 1960, Collins travels to 2008, blending oral and traditional history to illustrate how American women fought against discrimination within the Civil Rights movement, earned the right to have unchaperoned (and co-ed) dorms, made inroads into professions other than teaching and nursing, forced and dealt with changing standards of beauty and fashion, became able to hold credit in their own names, died for their country, and pushed towards more a equal division of home duties and codified family support.  Collins's tone is a bit more serious than in her New York Times columns, but still very enjoyable, and she allows both famous and ordinary women to tell their own stories.  It's definitely worth reading (although because of its structure, hard to review).

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