“Gail Collins knows how to tell a story. Lively, witty, and dead serious, this wise history is a fascinating read.”
“Masterful...Collins’ sly wit and unfussy style makes this historical book extremely accessible.”
“A fascinating compendium”
“This is one of the most fascinating American History books I’ve ever read. I learned something new on every page.”
“Though America’s Women is an easy and entertaining read, it also fulfills the radical promise of women’s history.”
Although it's a cultural history of women in America since the first European settlers, America's Women possesses none of the stodginess or predictability of such chronicles. Former New York Times editorial writer Collins has a keen sense of her subject's richness. The author of Scorpion Tongues moves from everyday details to social generalization without sacrificing the thrust of her narrative or her central theme: "the tension between the yearning to create a home and the urge to get out of it."
In her lively and readable survey of women in America, Gail Collins shows how ideology about gender roles always gives way to economic necessity. Women who are considered constitutionally unable to do men's work do men's work as soon as war comes and men are needed to fight it...Collins has an eye for such ironies and a good-humored way of presenting them.Phyllis Rose
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.
The basis of the struggle of American women, postulates Collins (Scorpion Tongues), "is the tension between the yearning to create a home and the urge to get out of it." Today's issues-should women be in the fields, on the factory lines and in offices, or should they be at home, tending to hearth and family?-are centuries old, and Collins, editor of the New York Times's editorial page, not only expertly chronicles what women have done since arriving in the New World, but how they did it and why. Creating a compelling social history, Collins discovers "it's less a war against oppressive men than a struggle to straighten out the perpetually mixed message about women's role that was accepted by almost everybody of both genders." These confusing messages are repeated over 400 years and are typified in the 1847 lecture of one doctor who stated that women's heads are "almost too small for intellect and just big enough for love" (ironically, around this time Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from an American medical school). The narratives are rich with direct quotes from both celebrated and common women, creating a clear picture of life in the 16th through 20th centuries, covering everyday (menstruation, birth control, cooking, cleanliness) and extraordinary (life during war, the abolition movement, fighting for the right to vote) topics. Beginning with Eleanor Dare and her 1587 sail to the colonies and ending with the 1970s, Collins's work is a fully accessible, and thoroughly enjoyable, primer of how American women have not only survived but thrived. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, Alice Martell. (On sale Sept. 23) Forecast: National print ads, appearances on the Today show and the CBS Early Show, a 25-city radio satellite tour and lecture tie-in appearances will help Collins reach the masses. Her book deserves a wide readership and is smooth enough to engage almost any kind of reader, academic or not. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the first woman to serve as editorial page editor at the New York Times. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Illuminating cultural history of American women from the first colonists to the present day. New York Times editorial page editor Collins (Scorpion Tongues, 1998) has turned a veritable mountain of research into an exceptionally readable, lively account of the contradictions and conflicts that have shaped women’s roles in the US. Her central theme is "the tension between the yearning to create a home and the urge to get out of it." Both sexes, she states, have accepted mixed messages about women’s proper role, and our history is full of about-faces on the subject. In an anecdote-laden text often relying on diaries and other contemporary records, she recounts how colonial women were not just housewives, midwives, and innkeepers, but religious dissidents (Anne Hutchinson) and Indian fighters (Hannah Dustin). During the Revolution, some donned men’s clothing and joined the army, but more traveled with their soldier husbands, doing the cooking and washing, or stayed home and ran the family farm. Juliette Brier, who walked 100 miles through Death Valley carrying one child on her back and another in her arms while leading a third, epitomizes the endurance and spirit of pioneer women. But it’s not all heroics and hardship. Collins fills her pages with fascinating details of everyday life over four centuries, including how women dressed, managed personal hygiene, and raised children. The roles they played in the temperance, abolition, and suffrage movements, the effects of the Civil War on southern women, white and black, the lives of 19th-century immigrant women are all explored. Collins shows how women, kept out of the workplace during the Depression, were brought into it by necessity duringWWII. Their retreat to the home in the ’50s, the subsequent sexual revolution, and the rise of feminism may be more familiar dramas than the earlier history, but the details are no less absorbing. Informative and entertaining, full of vivid stories that reveal not only what women were doing but how they felt about it. Agent: Alice Martell