Girl I Left behind: A Narrative History of the Sixties [NOOK Book]

Overview

At the height of the Vietnam War protests, twenty-eight-year-old Judith Nies and her husband lived a seemingly idyllic life. Both were building their respective careers in Washington—Nies as the speechwriter and chief staffer to a core group of antiwar congressmen, her husband as a Treasury department economist. But when her husband brought home a list of questions from an FBI file with Judith's name on the front, Nies soon realized that her life was about to take a radical turn. Shocked to find herself the focus...

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Girl I Left behind: A Narrative History of the Sixties

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Overview

At the height of the Vietnam War protests, twenty-eight-year-old Judith Nies and her husband lived a seemingly idyllic life. Both were building their respective careers in Washington—Nies as the speechwriter and chief staffer to a core group of antiwar congressmen, her husband as a Treasury department economist. But when her husband brought home a list of questions from an FBI file with Judith's name on the front, Nies soon realized that her life was about to take a radical turn. Shocked to find herself the focus of an FBI investigation into her political activities, Nies began to reevaluate her role as grateful employee and dutiful wife.

A heartfelt memoir and a piercing social commentary, The Girl I Left Behind offers a fresh, candid look at the 1960s. Recounting Nies's courageous journey toward independence and equality, it evaluates the consequences of the feminist movement on the same women who made it happen—and on the daughters born in their wake.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Future chroniclers of the period may well place the drug and hippie scene as, historically, mere decorative fringe to "the women's movement that came out of the 1960s," which was, according to Nies, "the most successful and transformative social movement of the twentieth century." Historian and biographer Nies (Nine Women: Portraits from the American Radical Tradition) combines her memoir of the girl she was with an account of the world in which she grew up to become a "pioneer feminist." She delineates a milieu of limitations on women's lives unimaginable today—a time when "women were supposed to marry well, dress well, and entertain well," and when men's clubs had "Ladies' Entrances" and Congress a "Ladies' Gallery." Nies combines personal memoir (her family history, student days, her travels, her marriage, her jobs from summer waitress to being "one of only a handful of professional women on Capitol Hill") with period history (the Cuban missile crisis, the Women Strike for Peace campaign against nuclear testing, the formation of NOW) and well-known people with whom she crosses paths (Madeleine Albright, Paul Wolfowitz, Dorothy Day and Gloria Steinem, to name a few). While the book lags at times, Nies's combination period history and memoir is a highly valuable first-person record of a woman who finds herself, and the movement she grew with. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This memoir spans the Sixties, when anti-Vietnam War rallies, women's and civil rights marches, sit-ins, and boycotts produced an era of great social upheaval. Nies matches these expressions of unrest with injustices encountered in her own life at the time. She learned about gender discrimination when she found herself unemployable after earning a graduate degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Nies explains that the few women who got hired from programs such as hers worked primarily in clerical or low-level positions for the CIA. She finally found a job with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and explains how she went on to work for 11 different liberal antiwar U.S. congressmen-"the best job in Washington"-doing research, writing speeches, and more. But there was still inequality. When she attended a congressional hearing on the Vietnam War, she was told she could sit only in the women's gallery, to which she responded that Congress was violating its own law, Title IX, which guaranteed equal access to public accommodations. Ultimately, Nies writes of coming of age as a stronger and wiser self than the "girl" she was at the beginning. The life experiences and lessons she relates so freshly (including political parallels to this era's war) will make this book captivating for students of the political and cultural history of the Sixties. Highly recommended for academic libraries and larger public libraries.
—Lisa Nussbaum

Kirkus Reviews
Relating her transformation from naive girl to empowered political woman, the author also paints a larger picture of the 1960s on Capitol Hill and beyond. Bolstered by contemporary statistics and an excellent memory, Nies (Writing/Massachusetts College of Art; Nine Women: Portraits from the American Radical Tradition, 2002, etc.) details the life changes she experienced alongside countless other women during a decade of secrecy, boys'-club politics and outright lies. Although handpicked from her blue-collar background to attend the prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Nies quickly learned that secretary was about the highest title an educated American woman could attain in the '60s. She fought to carve out a space for herself in politics and international relations, relying on persistence, the support of the nascent women's movement and no small measure of guts. She gradually accomplished feats both personal and political, working with or against many famous, influential people along the way. In her punchy memoir, Nies demonstrates that equal rights for women in the workplace did not just happen, nor did they materialize as the result of benevolent male politicians finally deciding to do the right thing. Generations of female activists worked tirelessly behind the scenes to change the country's mind-set about women in the workplace and to raise awareness of crucial issues including child care, birth control and sexual harassment. Many of the dramatic trials and victories she records have faded from public consciousness, even though today's young women directly benefit from the efforts of their female forebears. The book's narrative style-blunt, unflinching,honest-serves the story well, and Nies refuses to gloss over her own flaws and errors. She ably details the conflicting demands made on and by women and their plural strategies for resolving them. Both educational and entertaining, with a wry, ironic wit evident throughout. Agent: Betsy Amster/Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises
Booklist
“Refreshingly candid. . . . Nies’ personal take on the ripple effects of the women’s movement—both on those involved directly and those who followed—is honest and engaging.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061865817
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 291,702
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Judith Nies has worked as a journalist, teacher, historian, researcher, and corporate speechwriter. The author of three books, including the classic biography Nine Women, she teaches a course on memoir as history and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents


Prologue: Remapping the Sixties     xi
Expectations
"They Want You to Answer Some Questions"     3
The Most Interesting Job in Washington     14
The Godfather     29
The Honorable Schoolgirl     50
History's Clock     75
The Failure Theory of Success     85
Hidden History
Citizen of the World     119
Honest Work Is Hard to Find     140
The Good Wife and Other Double Binds     164
The Rise of the Bra Burners     188
We Live in a World the Sixties Made
Extraordinary Times     211
The Ghost of Marjorie Merriweather Post     241
Moral Hazard     271
Leave the Gun; Take the Cannoli     287
Epilogue: Conversations with History     305
Acknowledgments     309
Notes     311
Selected Bibliography     339
Index     345
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