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America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines (P.S.)

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines (P.S.)
Author: Gail Collins
ISBN 13: 9780061227226
ISBN 10: 61227226
Edition: Reissue
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: 2007-04-24
Format: Paperback
Pages: 608
List Price: $15.99

America's Women 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.

The New York Times

It is in grappling with that contortionism that Collins, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, reveals her evenhandedness. The 19th-century obstetrician bungled as much because of women's modesty as because of the constraints of his profession. 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. — Stacy Schiff