When Everything Changed by Gail Collins

When Everything Changed tells the story of women in the US from 1960 to the present (including Hillary Clinton’s and Sarah Palin’s presidential campaigns. It’s a rather messy book that combines historical narratives and individual women’s stories, some puzzlingly mundane, but it reads very well, like the story of our moms, older sisters, and daughters. It talks about girdles as easily as the doomed Equal Rights amendment, about Barbie’s choice of boyfriends and the rigidly sexist ways of communes. And while it highlights many famous women, from Betty Friedan to Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who could not clerk for Felix Frankfurter because she wore pants — good heavens!), it also presents women I did not know about, women who fought to become switchmen (I guess switchperson or switch specialist was still in the distance!) or simply sought to live with their boyfriends rather than in their college dorms.

we’ve come a long way from girdles and 60% college dropout rates for women because they got married before getting their degrees. What’s astonishing to see is the extraordinary resistance placed on the changes, every step of the way, while from today’s perspective it seems completely obvious that women should be able to wear pants, become switch specialists, and sign up for their own loans. May the rest of the journey be smoother.

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Filed under Non fiction

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