We Are Our Mothers' Daughters: Revised and Expanded Editionby Cokie Roberts
In this revised and expanded tenth-anniversary edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller, renowned political commentator Cokie Roberts once again examines the nature of women's roles through the revealing lens of her personal experience. From mother to mechanic, sister to soldier, Roberts reveals how much progress has been made—and how much further/b>
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In this revised and expanded tenth-anniversary edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller, renowned political commentator Cokie Roberts once again examines the nature of women's roles through the revealing lens of her personal experience. From mother to mechanic, sister to soldier, Roberts reveals how much progress has been made—and how much further we have to go. A superb collection of profiles and essays, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters offers tremendous insight into the opportunities and challenges that women encounter today as Roberts reflects upon the number of female achievers who have graced the public stage in the past decade, and focuses on the question, "What next?"
Simply but feelingly written, this could be recommended to just-turned-teenagers as well as adults, though the latter may be surprised at the somewhat ingenuous tone from a seasoned reporter. -- Francine Fialkoff
Unfortunately, the analysis is as slim as the book itself. Roberts sets her rather general tone by dividing the book into the generic roles women may play, beginning with sister and moving through politicianher mother was noted Congresswoman Lindy Boggsmechanic first class, friend, wife, and mother/daughter, among others. Some stories are historical or biographical in nature, such as the chapter that examines the life of consumer advocate Esther Peterson. Others are more personal in nature, such as Roberts' musings on her sister, Barbara, who died not long ago after a bout with cancer. None are particularly pithy. In the section on the trials of juggling a career with her reporter husband, Steven, for instance, Roberts glosses over huge issues, such as finding day care or babysitting help in an era where few women worked outside the home. 'We've had many a `heated discussion,' as the politicians say, over the appropriate allocation of each other's time between work and family,' she writes in the chapter called 'Wife.'This is the historical reference for today's working mothers?
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We Are Our Mothers' Daughters
Revised and Expanded Edition
A Woman's Place
A woman's place is in the house... And in the senate," the T-shirts and buttons proclaim at women's political events. "A Woman's Place Is in Uniform," trumpets a book about women in the military. "A woman's place is at the typewriter," declared Fortune magazine back in 1935. That was convenient for the economy and so it was decreed. A few years later a woman's place was in the factory or in the nursing corps because that was essential for the war effort. Then a woman's place was in the home. And now? A woman's place is anywhere she wants it to be. Fine, but who's taking care of the children? That's the question that keeps us roiled up over this issue.
Recently the country got all in a snit over the case of ababy apparently killed by his baby-sitter in Boston. Were people demanding the head of the baby-sitter? No, quite the contrary, it was the mother who came in for abuse by the radio callers and the editorial writers. She went to work three days a week, corning home at lunchtime to breast-feed, even though her husband had a perfectly good job. What kind of mother was she? Obviously, a selfish, greedy one who was willing to leave her children in the care of an inexperienced young woman. Wait a minute. Suppose she had gone out at night with her husband and left the babies with a teenager? What then? And didn't society just direct thousands of mothers to leave their children in another's care by requiring that we welfare mothers go to work? Could we make up our minds here, please?
No, probably not, because we're still confused about this issue of a woman's place.We're confused because we know that no matter what else a woman is doing, she's also care taking and we worry that a woman "out at work" might leave someone, especially her children, without care. That's what's at the heart of this sometimes vicious debate. Sure, a lot of other, much less noble, attitudes also underlie these arguments. Plenty of people still think that women are just plain uppity and they see a woman's place as someplace to put her. But I think it's the question of the children, and now old people as well, that truly troubles us. And women with children often find whatever choice they make uncomfortable.
That wasn't always true. For most of human history menand women worked together in the same place and each one's work complemented the other's. No one thought the farmer's job was more important than the farm wife's. Neither could manage without the other. Teenage relatives often moved in to help care for the children, to protect them from household hazards like open fires while the busy mother made the soap and the candles, spun the cloth, pieced together the clothes, fixed the food. Women gathered together to help with large chores, and visited as they worked. They also congregated to attend to births and deaths, taking comfort from each other's company.Whenever I think of the courage it took to leave everything and everyone behind to come to this continent in the early years of colonization, I am struck by the fortitude of those settlers. First the trip across the ocean, then in later generations the trek across the continent, required women to "do it all." The history of the movement west is one of extraordinary men and women overcoming incredible odds together. It was the industrial revolution that changed everything. Men went out to work for wages, and they were paid for the hours they put in, not the tasks they completed. (Poor women went into the factories, or to domestic work, as well. In 1850 women comprised 13 percent of the paid labor force; this question of women's work is one directly related to economic class.) Suddenly, what women did at home lost its value because there was no paycheck attached. Repetitive housework replaced home manufacture as women's crafts moved into assembly-line production. And that's what we've been struggling with ever since. Doing work that is economically rewarded and socially recognized means leaving home. That could change with the information revolution, as machines make it possible to work just about anywhere. But I think it's unlikely to alter the fact that women aren't paid for their jobs as nurturers, and it still leaves women at home isolated from other women.
We Are Our Mothers' Daughters
Revised and Expanded Edition. Copyright (c) by Cokie Roberts . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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From the Author:
Pity my poor daughter at holiday time. Like it or not, she's turned into the Christmas fairy. It started innocently enough, with her helping me in the kitchen, a little girl eager to make a mess with the Chanukah and Christmas cookie cutters, to smash the cranberries up for relish. But she got too adept at it for her own good. As the years went on, I started relying on her for more and more: "Becca, please wrap this; Becca, please decorate that." Unfortunately for her, she's a good bit more artistic than I am, (so is my dog Rupert ) so anything that required style or grace meant she was summoned into action.
On December 24, the action gets a little frantic, what with running through closing shopping malls, grabbing at anything vaguely appropriate for last minute guests we didn't know would be coming. Then it's home to wrap and wrap until we head out to other family, trying gamely to look festively put together. For years, when she lived at home, Becca also had to teach me my part to sing in the choir at Midnight Mass. And, the worst was yet to come-there was still my mother to deal with. After church the kids would decamp to their grandmother's to help her tote bag after bag of presents to her car so that she could spend the night with us and not wake up alone on Christmas morning. That was an all night adventure.
When Becca grew up and moved away, I'd call her every year and whimper, "This is the year it's not going to happen, this is the year I'll never get it all done. Come home!" Patiently, she'd tell me that she had a job, had a life, would get here when she could, but don't worry, it would be ok. And she's right, because she gets here in time to make it ok. But this year temptation stared her squarely in the face. My mother, who now lives in Rome, will have her own, much saner Christmas, having left me with the family house and the family cast of fifty for dinner. In a treacherous move, Mamma invited Becca and her husband to join her for Christmas. Bless her, "Mom would kill me," was the instant response from my daughter. Maybe not kill her, but I wouldn't know what to do without her, this year it really wouldn't get done. So my daughter will be here still smashing the cranberries and stuffing the goose, letting other family members enjoy Christmas with her grandmother. We'll go together on our Roman holiday the next day, after all the guests have gone home, stomachs full and gifts in hand-thanks
Meet the Author
Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News and NPR. She has won countless awards and in 2008 was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters, Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, and, with her husband, the journalist Steven V. Roberts, From This Day Forward and Our Haggadah.
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