Daughters of Aquarius: Women of the Sixties Counterculture

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Overview

It was a sign of the sixties. Drawn by the promise of spiritual and creative freedom, thousands of women from white middle-class homes rejected the suburban domesticity of their mothers to adopt lifestyles more like those of their great-grandmothers. They eagerly learned "new" skills, from composting to quilting, as they took up the decade's quest for self-realization.

"Hippie women" have alternately been seen as earth mothers or love goddesses, virgins or vamps—images that have obscured the real complexity of their lives. Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo now takes readers back to Haight Ashbury and country communes to reveal how they experienced and shaped the counterculture. She draws on the personal recollections of women who were there—including such pivotal figures as Lenore Kendall, Diane DiPrima, and Carolyn Adams—to gain insight into what made counterculture women tick, how they lived their days, and how they envisioned their lives.

This is the first book to focus specifically on women of the counterculture. It describes how gender was perceived within the movement, with women taking on much of the responsibility for sustaining communes. It also examines the lives of younger runaways and daughters who shared the lifestyle. And while it explores the search for self enlightenment at the core of the counter-culture experience, it also recounts the problems faced by those who resisted the expectations of "free love" and discusses the sexism experienced by women in the arts.

Lemke-Santangelo's work also extends our understanding of second-wave feminism. She argues that counterculture women, despite their embrace of traditional roles, claimed power by virtue ofgender difference and revived an older agrarian ideal that assigned greater value to female productive labor. Perhaps most important, she shows how they used these values to move counterculture practices into the mainstream, helping transform middle-class attitudes toward everything from spirituality to childrearing to the environment.

Featuring photographs and poster art that bring the era to life, Daughters of Aquarius provides both an inside look at a defining movement and a needed corrective to long-held stereotypes of the counterculture. For everyone who was part of that scene—or just wonders what it was like—this book offers a new perspective on those experiences and on cultural innovations that have affected all our lives.

This book is part of the CultureAmerica series.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Author and history professor Lemke-Santangelo (Abiding Courage: African American Migrant Women in the East Bay Community) examines the history and impact of the "hippie women" of the 1960's and 70's counterculture, whose contributions to the second wave of feminism "have been shrouded in popular misconceptions and stereotypes." Using memoirs and interviews (eight new), as well as extensive analysis and personal photos, Lemke-Santangelo illuminates the way figures like author Lenore Kendall and beat poet Diane DiPrima "altered the social, political, economic and cultural landscape" and brought everything from "natural childbirth and mothering to New Age spiritual beliefs, eco-feminism, holistic health, and sustainable agriculture" into the national discourse (sowing seeds for the current "green" movement). Though most were white and "children of prosperity," Lemke-Santangelo addresses and dispels stereotyped notions of "earth mothers" and "love goddesses"-an oppressive vision promoted even in the (male-dominated) counterculture press-to present an unobstructed view of their day-to-day lives, finding a lifestyle at once progressive and strikingly similar to that of their hard-working great-grandmothers. Filling a gap in the scholarship of feminism, this history presents (and preserves) stories from a wide range of counterculture women with lively, populist prose and little academic posturing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

Not surprisingly, Tim Hodgdon's Manhood in the Age of Aquarius: Masculinity in Two Countercultural Communities, 1965-83 appears in the selected bibliography of Lemke-Santangelo's book on hippie women. Both books look at the counterculture and alternative lifestyles that became popular among younger people beginning in the 1960s, and they share an academic writing style (not to mention the use of the same Irwin Klein photograph, "Alan and Mickey in Meadow"). Manhood began as Hodgdon's dissertation, and it reads like one: earnest and kind of plodding. Lemke-Santangelo (history, St. Mary's Coll. of California) similarly generalizes and strives to explain things (like why communes relied on food stamps), using quotes from a seemingly random selection of folks who were there, interspersed with out-of-context bons mots from people like Benjamin Spock and Barbara Ehrenreich. For a really fun read and a nice cultural history of the times, Sheila Weller's Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon-And the Journey of a Generation goes over a lot better. Daughters of Aquarius may be of interest, however, to students and specialists on 1960s America.
—Ellen Gilbert

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700616336
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 3/4/2009
  • Series: CultureAmerica
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo is professor of history at St. Mary's College of California. She is author of Abiding Courage: African American Migrant Women in the East Bay Community and coauthor of Competing Visions: A History of California.

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