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America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines

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A landmark work of history telling the story of more than four centuries of history featuring a stunning array of personalities. America's Women tells the story of more than four centuries of history. It features a stunning array of personalities, from the women peering worriedly over the side of the Mayflower to feminists having a grand old time protesting beauty pageants A landmark work of history telling the story of more than four centuries of history featuring a stunning array of personalities. America's Women tells the story of more than four centuries of history. It features a stunning array of personalities, from the women peering worriedly over the side of the Mayflower to feminists having a grand old time protesting beauty pageants and bridal fairs. Courageous, silly, funny, and heartbreaking, these women shaped the nation and our vision of what it means to be female in America. By culling the most fascinating characters — the average as well as the celebrated — Gail Collins, the editorial page editor at the New York Times, charts a journey that shows how women lived, what they cared about, and how they felt about marriage, sex, and work. She begins with the lost colony of Roanoke and the early southern "tobacco brides" who came looking for a husband and sometimes — thanks to the stupendously high mortality rate — wound up marrying their way through three or four. Spanning wars, the pioneering days, the fight for suffrage, the Depression, the era of Rosie the Riveter, the civil rights movement, and the feminist rebellion of the 1970s, America's Women describes the way women's lives were altered by dress fashions, medical advances, rules of hygiene, social theories about sex and courtship, and the ever-changing attitudes toward education, work, and politics. While keeping her eye on the big picture, Collins still notes that corsets and uncomfortable shoes mattered a lot, too. "The history of American women is about the fight for freedom," Collins writes in her introduction, "but it's less a war against oppressive men than a struggle to straighten out the perpetually mixed message about women's roles that was accepted by almost everybody of both genders." Told chronologically through the compelling stories of individual lives that, linked together, provide a complete picture of the American woman's experience, America's Women is both a great read and a landmark work of history.


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A landmark work of history telling the story of more than four centuries of history featuring a stunning array of personalities. America's Women tells the story of more than four centuries of history. It features a stunning array of personalities, from the women peering worriedly over the side of the Mayflower to feminists having a grand old time protesting beauty pageants A landmark work of history telling the story of more than four centuries of history featuring a stunning array of personalities. America's Women tells the story of more than four centuries of history. It features a stunning array of personalities, from the women peering worriedly over the side of the Mayflower to feminists having a grand old time protesting beauty pageants and bridal fairs. Courageous, silly, funny, and heartbreaking, these women shaped the nation and our vision of what it means to be female in America. By culling the most fascinating characters — the average as well as the celebrated — Gail Collins, the editorial page editor at the New York Times, charts a journey that shows how women lived, what they cared about, and how they felt about marriage, sex, and work. She begins with the lost colony of Roanoke and the early southern "tobacco brides" who came looking for a husband and sometimes — thanks to the stupendously high mortality rate — wound up marrying their way through three or four. Spanning wars, the pioneering days, the fight for suffrage, the Depression, the era of Rosie the Riveter, the civil rights movement, and the feminist rebellion of the 1970s, America's Women describes the way women's lives were altered by dress fashions, medical advances, rules of hygiene, social theories about sex and courtship, and the ever-changing attitudes toward education, work, and politics. While keeping her eye on the big picture, Collins still notes that corsets and uncomfortable shoes mattered a lot, too. "The history of American women is about the fight for freedom," Collins writes in her introduction, "but it's less a war against oppressive men than a struggle to straighten out the perpetually mixed message about women's roles that was accepted by almost everybody of both genders." Told chronologically through the compelling stories of individual lives that, linked together, provide a complete picture of the American woman's experience, America's Women is both a great read and a landmark work of history.

30 review for America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Holley

    I took a survey pair of classes in college called History of Women in the U.S., and they were two of my favorite college classes of all time. I had always had a love-hate relationship with history. Some of it is so fascinating, and it is always interesting to me to see how current culture and politics echoes the culture and politics of the past, but, on the other hand, sometimes history seems to be all wars and generalities. It is often zeitgeist and statistics, rather than subtlety and story. B I took a survey pair of classes in college called History of Women in the U.S., and they were two of my favorite college classes of all time. I had always had a love-hate relationship with history. Some of it is so fascinating, and it is always interesting to me to see how current culture and politics echoes the culture and politics of the past, but, on the other hand, sometimes history seems to be all wars and generalities. It is often zeitgeist and statistics, rather than subtlety and story. But, my History of Women classes were different: they were letters and stories of all kinds of women living in North America. Women who cared centuries ago about things I care about now. It was brilliant. I thought, this is what history has been missing for me: women. I’m sad to say it, but this book proved me wrong. I started following Gail Collins’s op-ed columns in the New York Times during the 2008 election because she is very witty and sometimes hilarious. I think she is a lovely, smart woman. This book, however, failed overall for me. It was full of the generalities that bother me in so many history books. Like, “Women watched this television show,” “Women wore this clothing,” “The U.S. wanted this or that,” “People felt this way.” It just rubs me the wrong way. I feel like if historians continue to live and breathe these sweeping observations about culture, people in the future will assume I am just like Brittany Spears. Not that I really have a problem with Brittany Spears, but I am not very similar to her. I like history through individual eyes and stories. And this book didn’t really even succeed for me when there were individual stories. Collins would pick out a notable woman and briefly summarize her story, but the scope of this book was too huge to do anybody justice. For example, she discusses Margaret Sanger twice, but, unless I missed it, did not touch at all on her racism or advocacy of eugenics. From one standpoint, I think her legacy obviously goes far beyond eugenics, and Sanger was an amazing woman in so many ways and an incredible advocate for voluntary birth control. But, to ignore her advocacy of eugenics seems suspect to me. Does it come from an assumption that someone with one so awful an idea could not do anything good? Does it come from a fear of even raising the topic? Is it just because there were so many people to cover in this book and so little space to do it? And, maybe she did mention it and I just missed it. But, if she didn’t (and I double checked and couldn't find anything about it), it seems like an example of a missed opportunity to talk about the nuance that exists in any cultural activism. Also, I am big on citation. I am big on deliberate, meticulous, and transparent citation of sources, and I was not satisfied with how citation works out in this book. First, I prefer footnotes to endnotes, but having said that, I thought the endnote citation in Dead Man Walking were excellent, so I definitely see how endnotes have their place. I haven’t gone through all of the endnotes in this, but from having skimmed them, they appear not so much to be citation as further reading recommendations. They are not linked to the text through endnotes at all, but rather are cited to pages through quotes from the pages. So, what I’m saying is that the only real cited information is the quotations, and then there are other sources listed for further reading. That drives me crazy. Like, you can’t just say, “Women liked to make out in Model-Ts” and not cite me to your source. Who gave you this information, Michael Moore? Your neighbor across the fence? A dream? Grease? A lot of the information in here about the early part of the twentieth century, for example, seemed to come from the Gilbraith family, which is fine, and I like them, but it’s not exactly a survey of diverse sources. And, as with Michael Moore, it’s not so much that I think the information actually is overall inaccurate; it’s just that I appreciate a well-timed citation. Maybe some of my complaint comes largely from the fact that this book isn’t Early American Women or Modern American Women, which are AMAZING. Maybe it’s not a fair standard to keep, but I think history books should be that blend of primary sources and analysis. I freaking love those books. This one wasn’t terrible but it was a resounding meh. It was a really long B+ recitation of generalities about American women. I am totally bummed and disillusioned to not be jumping off the walls about it because this is the first time I have failed to jump off walls about a book on the history of women, and I think it is signaling a certain crotchety-ness in me. Oh, no wait, there was that eye-roll HBO production about Alice Paul. That was annoying, though it wasn’t a book. Anyway, I could see assigning this in a high school class, but I couldn’t really see going beyond that. And why not watch Ken Burns’s wonderful documentary Not for Ourselves Alone, read the American Women books, or read one of Jeannette Walls’s books instead? Those are fucking amazing. People should freak out about the history of women, and the zeitgeists and famous people this book summarized just failed to make me freak out.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dana Stabenow

    Gail Collins’ America’s Women (400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines) reads like the women studies class I was never offered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It should be required reading for every US high school student today. Listen to some of this stuff: The most famous runaway slave…was [Harriet Tubman:]…In 1849, when she was about thirty years old, she heard rumors that she was about to be sold and escaped. Making her way to Philadelphia, she cleaned houses until she had Gail Collins’ America’s Women (400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines) reads like the women studies class I was never offered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It should be required reading for every US high school student today. Listen to some of this stuff: The most famous runaway slave…was [Harriet Tubman:]…In 1849, when she was about thirty years old, she heard rumors that she was about to be sold and escaped. Making her way to Philadelphia, she cleaned houses until she had enough saved to finance a return trip…she made as many as 19 trips over the border. In one, using a hired wagon, she retrieved her elderly parents. In another, she led eleven slaves to freedom…She was expert at disguises, appearing as an old woman or a vagabond, or a mental disturbed man. She carried paregoric to quiet crying babies, and if anyone showed signs of panicking, she ominously fingered the revolver she always carried. Maryland slaveholders offered a bounty of $40,000 for her capture. and The great story about Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, who four days later voted against the US going into WWI. Two years later the voters invited her home, but she wasn’t done, not by a long shot. In 1940 she was re-elected, just in time to vote against the US going into WWII. Not sure this was exactly what Anthony and Stanton had in mind at Seneca Falls. One of the recurring themes that Collins delights in is the instruction women received from the media on their behavior and place in society. Some of the crap womens' magazines were pitching in the 1950s could have been lifted whole right out of publications in the 1750s. This is remedial womens’ studies with a vengeance, told with wit and style and a gift for picking exactly the right anecdote to illustrate an entire historical event. All the usual suspects are present and accounted for, from Prudence Crandall to Abigail Adams to Margaret Sanger (Thanks for the pill, Margaret!) to Elizabeth Eckford to Eleanor Roosevelt (Thanks for marrying Eleanor, Franklin!). A must read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I studied military history in school, I studied maritime history for fun, I served 8 years in the military, I rock climb, etc. I have never worn pink. So when I received this book as a Christmas present I thought “how odd.” A decidedly girly book for such a tomboy. I am so embarrassed by my utter lack of appreciation for, and knowledge of, the women who came before me, that fought for my right to an education, to serve in the military, hell, to even wear pants! This book gets 5 stars for not only I studied military history in school, I studied maritime history for fun, I served 8 years in the military, I rock climb, etc. I have never worn pink. So when I received this book as a Christmas present I thought “how odd.” A decidedly girly book for such a tomboy. I am so embarrassed by my utter lack of appreciation for, and knowledge of, the women who came before me, that fought for my right to an education, to serve in the military, hell, to even wear pants! This book gets 5 stars for not only being excellently written and researched, for being compelling and fascinating, but because it had such a massive impact on me. It opened an entirely new genre of history for me, one that I have now pursued with a voracious appetite. This book is easy to read, it always stays on point, and follows a very specific timeline. It never jumps around, its always very focused. Honestly, I wish this book were about a 1000 pages longer, because I would have liked to see more recent history described a bit more, but I suppose there is no shortage of other books on that subject. The personal stories and vignettes of women from newspapers, diaries, etc made the book very compelling, it really reached out to you. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is my absolute favorite book to lend, and because it covers the whole of American history everyone can learn something. I’ve never had anyone return it that didn’t rave about it. I look forward to reading more of Collins’ work. ****Note**** I would just like to point out that because this book is so incredibly awesome it is one of the books always featured behind Assistant Deputy Knope's bookshelf. YAY PARKS & REC!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    While reading this I called myself a feminist for the first time in my life. My former discomfort with that label was embarrassing; I acknowledge the younger generations' ingratitude towards those who struggled for women's rights, but despite my gratitude and delight in the current freedoms, I couldn't embrace the concept of feminism without feeling like I was being tongue-in-cheek or somehow self-mocking. I believe there are nature-bound differences, which can be studied and exposed, between t While reading this I called myself a feminist for the first time in my life. My former discomfort with that label was embarrassing; I acknowledge the younger generations' ingratitude towards those who struggled for women's rights, but despite my gratitude and delight in the current freedoms, I couldn't embrace the concept of feminism without feeling like I was being tongue-in-cheek or somehow self-mocking. I believe there are nature-bound differences, which can be studied and exposed, between the brains of women and men, I think the sexes have evolved differently, I also think that altered gender states have evolved out of this and also involve differences on the neuronal and chemical levels. Somehow my thoughts on these matters interfered with my willingness to call myself a feminist; if we are different, why do we still need to struggle for equality, and why can't we rejoice in these differences? I was so over the idea of bridging a gender gap, I was through with breaking the glass ceiling. Adrienne Rich made me so angry, leaving her family and thinking she was taking some strong feminist stance by embracing her creativity and going off to write poetry; if that is what modern feminists think they can do, I wanted no part of the movement. This book changed my perspective completely, I'm in awe of the progress women have made in this country, and of Gail Collins' work to dig up the day-to-day lives of women through a great deal of colonial and post-colonial America. It should have been obvious before, but there are as many kinds of feminism as there are women, and the differences amongst us can strengthen the movement. An analysis of variance may show "us" as women to be different from men, but the within groups differences matter just as much.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wayne Barrett

    This was a very informative book on the trials and triumphs of women in America. It's hard to believe that it took until the late 60's and early 70's for women to gain even ground with men. And even at that time it was just the beginning of an uphill battle. I tried to put myself in the mindset of a woman as I read the book and I believe there were moments when I would have been extremely proud and moments when I would have been extremely pissed. From the mindset of a man, I also felt extremely This was a very informative book on the trials and triumphs of women in America. It's hard to believe that it took until the late 60's and early 70's for women to gain even ground with men. And even at that time it was just the beginning of an uphill battle. I tried to put myself in the mindset of a woman as I read the book and I believe there were moments when I would have been extremely proud and moments when I would have been extremely pissed. From the mindset of a man, I also felt extremely proud of women. There is a ton of history they contributed that will never be known because their voices and their stories were silenced. And I also felt moments of shame. You are your brothers keeper. Well, goddammit... you are your sisters keeper as well! It did seem as though the individual accounts were hurried, but I understand that if the author gave detailed accounts of all the women mentioned, this would have been the size of War and Peace sandwiched between two Stephen King novels. I also think there was not enough attention given to all the races that make up this country. The main focus was on white and black women with very little given to others like the Mexicans, Asians and...AMERICAN INDIANS! Hello! So, anyway, very good book with a lot of history about our wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, faithful, strong women. Okay honey, you can let go of my balls. I'm done. ;)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    I read Collins' When Everything Changed a few years ago and was blown away. Part oral history, part research-driven narrative, it told the story of the role that women played in the US from the 1960s to 2008, the year before it was published and Hillary Clinton made her first presidential run. I immediately bought this book, which is a history of women in the US from the 1600s up until the 60s, but it took me forever to get around to actually reading it and I don't know why. It essentially feels I read Collins' When Everything Changed a few years ago and was blown away. Part oral history, part research-driven narrative, it told the story of the role that women played in the US from the 1960s to 2008, the year before it was published and Hillary Clinton made her first presidential run. I immediately bought this book, which is a history of women in the US from the 1600s up until the 60s, but it took me forever to get around to actually reading it and I don't know why. It essentially feels like taking a survey class in college because it so briefly summarizes so many notable women and events, though it never really explores any of them with much depth. It's well-written and accessible, but less engaging than the oral history structure of her follow-up. The only reason this is four stars instead of five is that, as someone who essentially minored in women's history (it was technically a women's studies minor, but I met almost all the requirements with history classes), I found very little new information in this book. That was a little bit disappointing to me personally, but not enough to keep me from whole-heartedly recommending this book to anyone looking to learn a little bit more about the oft-forgotten sides of history.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Ray

    "In 1921 Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act, a step toward a national system of well-baby clinics to improve the health of the poor. But physicians felt it threatened their practices, and when it became clear that women were not going to vote as a bloc, it was phased out." (p. 340 of 556. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepp...) Woman suffrage seemed inconsequential. Women voted by loyalty to class, ethnic group, and religion, as men did. (p. 338) "Alfred C. Kinsey's 1953 Sexual Be "In 1921 Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act, a step toward a national system of well-baby clinics to improve the health of the poor. But physicians felt it threatened their practices, and when it became clear that women were not going to vote as a bloc, it was phased out." (p. 340 of 556. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepp...) Woman suffrage seemed inconsequential. Women voted by loyalty to class, ethnic group, and religion, as men did. (p. 338) "Alfred C. Kinsey's 1953 Sexual Behavior in the Human Female estimated 24 percent of married women had had an abortion." (p. 408) "If Rosa Parks had got up and given that white man her seat you'd never'a heard of Martin Luther King Jr. --E.D. Nixon, her lawyer. (p. 418) "Much of the money to run anti-suffrage campaigns came from the liquor industry, which realized it would be out of business if women got to vote on Prohibition." (p. 307, but remember, Prohibition passed /before/ women got the vote.) Particularly insightful telling of the 1692 Salem, Massachusetts "witch" killings. Unhappy young women ask a Caribbean slave woman to fortell their marriage prospects. The egg white forms the shape of a coffin in the boiling water. Soon the women start going into fits and making accusations against family enemies and against defenders of the accused. Uniquely, Salem authorities took the wildest accusations seriously. Only those who /denied/ being witches were killed. 24 were killed solely on claims of visions nobody else could see. Massachusetts governor stopped it after his wife was accused. pp. 35-46 of 556. Similar to the Communist hunts after world wars I and II. And to the "illegal immigrant" hunts today. (Yes, some of the accused Communists really held minority political affiliations; many of the "illegal immigrants" really aren't authorized to be here. But the vicious treatment--including permanently taking young kids from their parents, even if they're here legally--makes clear witch hunts are not in the past.) About a dozen mostly Western states gave women the vote well before the 1920 19th amendment gave all U.S. women the vote. Western states were short of women: they were trying to attract them. (There seems to be no one official source of information on dates the various states enfranchised women. Primary sources would have to be state-by-state.) Over all, the book felt a little cut-and-pasted from what her assistants dug up.

  8. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    American women should read this book, but more importantly, men should read this book. Even though Gail Collins doesn't call this a history book, it is an important gender history of the USA. This is not dry dates and places history. In fact, it is likely that you have had only a little of what Ms. Collins brings in any of the history courses you have taken: high school, college or beyond. The charm and uniqueness of this very readable book is its reliance on original source materials: journals, American women should read this book, but more importantly, men should read this book. Even though Gail Collins doesn't call this a history book, it is an important gender history of the USA. This is not dry dates and places history. In fact, it is likely that you have had only a little of what Ms. Collins brings in any of the history courses you have taken: high school, college or beyond. The charm and uniqueness of this very readable book is its reliance on original source materials: journals, diaries and correspondence. Whether we are talking about women laboring in their 17th Century colonial cabins, in their prairie sod houses, in their mining camp tents or in their turn of the 20th Century tenements, we are hearing (for me, much for the first time) what their lives were like. Collins does a very credible job of bringing their hopes, opinions, frustrations and joys to us in a way that is both touching and thought provoking. How hard was it to keep a healthy home? How lonely was it when your nearest neighbor for twenty years or more was more than forty miles away and all you had were the children your husband provided when he went off to hunt or trap or mine? How exciting was it when your ordinary cooking skills were so prized by miners that you could make a fortune in a year's worth of work? How scary and/or exciting was it to find work outside the home and be independent? I wonder what attitudes would be modified if a little of this were sprinkled though each of our American history education experiences.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Lin

    An engrossing history composed of palatable anecdotes, blunt humor, and plain facts that will affirm, incense, and convulse by turns. Not scholarly, but well-informed and intimately written.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sara Klem

    The scope of this book is just...massive. This is a plus because I felt like I learned a lot from it, ending up jotting down names of women I wanted to read more about, but it's also the book's downfall because I felt like it glossed over women who were not white or African American. It definitely left you wanting for more at certain points. Still, it was a great read, and Gail Collins does not sugar coat. She answers many of the questions you want answered about women of the past (how the hell The scope of this book is just...massive. This is a plus because I felt like I learned a lot from it, ending up jotting down names of women I wanted to read more about, but it's also the book's downfall because I felt like it glossed over women who were not white or African American. It definitely left you wanting for more at certain points. Still, it was a great read, and Gail Collins does not sugar coat. She answers many of the questions you want answered about women of the past (how the hell did pioneer women deal with menstruation?!) and does not leave out some of the less flattering details (discusses Susan B. Anthony being pretty racist and Margaret Sanger getting mildly involved with eugenics, for example). I'd recommend it if you're wanting to read about the lesser-known badass women of our country's history but not sure where to start.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    From Eleanor Dare's voyage to the New World to Betty Friedan's march down Fifth Avenue, Collins uses individual women as a framework for her discussion of the four-hundred-year history of women in America. Starting with the lost colony of Roanoke Island and spanning several wars, the pioneering days, the Great Depression, the era of Rosie the Riveter, and the civil rights movement before ending with minimal commentary of the past three decades, the book explains how the lives of women were alter From Eleanor Dare's voyage to the New World to Betty Friedan's march down Fifth Avenue, Collins uses individual women as a framework for her discussion of the four-hundred-year history of women in America. Starting with the lost colony of Roanoke Island and spanning several wars, the pioneering days, the Great Depression, the era of Rosie the Riveter, and the civil rights movement before ending with minimal commentary of the past three decades, the book explains how the lives of women were altered by birth control, social theories about sex and courtship, suffragettes, evolving legal rights, and fashion. While I can understand beginning this tomb of history with Eleanor Dare, a British women who traveled to Roanoke Island and gave birth to a little girl, because her arrival began the makings of America as a nation, there is a distinct lack of historical accounts about Latina, Asian, Native American, and other minority women recorded in America's Women. Collins covers European (white) and African-Americans in-depth; women within other ethnic groups and their struggles, movements, and contributions to history are ignored. History also comes fast and furious when Collins hits the twentieth century, especially after she covers the civil rights movement in the 1960s. I did skim the periods of history that I know best -- the pioneer days, the Great Depression, World War II -- but for the periods I don't have a personal interest in, I found that even with basic knowledge I had a hard time conjuring up the images Collins wanted me to have in my head. A notable exception would be the pages on the colonial days and the American revolution up until the Civil War; with those I found that I could easily follow along and feel Collins excitement for her work. Her devotion to this period in American history really transferred from the pages to me, but from here to end her excitement noticeably drops and Collins loses steam. In the end, I told my mother to pass on this one because for someone who doesn't like history this sentiment will continue to thrive while reading this dry and not well-outlined book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book records the changes in American women's lives and the transformations in American society from the 1580s through the 2000s. I appreciated that the author included women of all races, backgrounds, education levels, etc. She talks about the accomplished women of history but also highlights many who were obscure but still important. This excerpt from Publisher's Weekly sums it up pretty well: The basis of the struggle of American women, postulates Collins, "is the tension between the yearn This book records the changes in American women's lives and the transformations in American society from the 1580s through the 2000s. I appreciated that the author included women of all races, backgrounds, education levels, etc. She talks about the accomplished women of history but also highlights many who were obscure but still important. This excerpt from Publisher's Weekly sums it up pretty well: The basis of the struggle of American women, postulates Collins, "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."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rowan

    This book gave me "Stuff You Missed in History Class" vibes and was an entertaining read, but I think it's misleading to call it "America's Women" when there is so much erasure of minority women. Black pioneers didn't get nearly enough time in the book when Collins took the time to quote journal entries from everyday white women; lesbian and Latina women got maybe 3 mentions each; the most notable mention of Native American women was Pocahontas; and I don't remember reading anything about Asian This book gave me "Stuff You Missed in History Class" vibes and was an entertaining read, but I think it's misleading to call it "America's Women" when there is so much erasure of minority women. Black pioneers didn't get nearly enough time in the book when Collins took the time to quote journal entries from everyday white women; lesbian and Latina women got maybe 3 mentions each; the most notable mention of Native American women was Pocahontas; and I don't remember reading anything about Asian American women at all. I can see why this book might be hailed as a history of feminism but it certainly isn't comprehensive and provides a misleading insight into what feminism should look like. As a lesbian Asian-American femme, rating this book two stars for how little flavor there is.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    This book is fantastic. It's not an in depth study of women in America by any means - how can it be, when it does, in fact, cover every one of the 400 years mentioned in the title? - but Collins hits on all the important figures and movements, well known or obscure, and provides a wonderful collection of notes with lists of her favorite sources. I'm a little afraid of just how big my to-read list is going to get now. This book is fantastic. It's not an in depth study of women in America by any means - how can it be, when it does, in fact, cover every one of the 400 years mentioned in the title? - but Collins hits on all the important figures and movements, well known or obscure, and provides a wonderful collection of notes with lists of her favorite sources. I'm a little afraid of just how big my to-read list is going to get now.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anna W

    Nice overview of women's history in America, but so broad that it lacks much depth. Easy read if quite long, feels more like journalism rather than history. Nice overview of women's history in America, but so broad that it lacks much depth. Easy read if quite long, feels more like journalism rather than history.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Not as good as the follow up book on the 60s to the present. It felt like maybe the primary sources were lacking up until 1900 or so. I wish there had been some more overarching commentary on trends across generations. Still informative and Collins's wry sense of humor is nice. Not as good as the follow up book on the 60s to the present. It felt like maybe the primary sources were lacking up until 1900 or so. I wish there had been some more overarching commentary on trends across generations. Still informative and Collins's wry sense of humor is nice.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Collins covers various aspects of life for American women from the early settlers up through the 1960s, with a very hurried last couple chapters spanning the time after that (but that time period is covered in much more detail in a more recent book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present). Her writing is not overly academic, which I greatly appreciate, as it was clear and easy to process. She tells history largely through anecdotes but definitely Collins covers various aspects of life for American women from the early settlers up through the 1960s, with a very hurried last couple chapters spanning the time after that (but that time period is covered in much more detail in a more recent book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present). Her writing is not overly academic, which I greatly appreciate, as it was clear and easy to process. She tells history largely through anecdotes but definitely cites little details here and there that would easily be missed in a survey class of history. Most of the subjects are white women, and the middle class is heavily represented, though she does talk about immigrant families (generally white European) and African-American women (slaves and free) a lot. There's a little bit about Mexican-Americans and Native Americans, but not much, and anyone not fitting in any of these groups (eg. Asian-Americans) are largely ignored. However, given the time span, I think this book would be a great supplemental text for an American history class. Issues of sexuality (and sexual health) are covered to an extent (with some hypothesizing when records weren't explicit), and there's LOT of examples of the advances and setbacks women have had in the US when it comes to equality. Seeing the same battles being fought over and over (some of which are still *quite* topical) was of most interest to me. I haven't done much with American history since high school, so this book was very refreshing for me to read and definitely made me want to seek out more information about our nation's history, especially from POVs that are not from white men.

  18. 4 out of 5

    D

    an enjoyable but fairly incomplete review of the women of america, punctuated with the most famous, giving a great deal of time to explaining developing cultural impact through the ages. the author acknowledges right up front in the foreword that the title has a problem with intersectionality and giving adequate time to nonwhite, non-middle-class and -rich players. pocahontas is cursorily discussed, and brief mentions are given to native american women and their culture. but the narration is almo an enjoyable but fairly incomplete review of the women of america, punctuated with the most famous, giving a great deal of time to explaining developing cultural impact through the ages. the author acknowledges right up front in the foreword that the title has a problem with intersectionality and giving adequate time to nonwhite, non-middle-class and -rich players. pocahontas is cursorily discussed, and brief mentions are given to native american women and their culture. but the narration is almost uniformly that of a white woman. that is, it is almost always assumed that "women" being spoken of are white (and often middle to upper class), whereas african american women are always designated as such. troubling -- most especially since this book is written from a feminist standpoint. the issues with intersectionality seriously weakened the rating for me. an enjoyable, enlightening, but ultimately lightweight and insufficiently inclusive title.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Thom Sutton

    Really good straight forward account of women's experience in America, from the first western settlers to the beginning of the 21st century. Anything with a subject as broad as this is bound to fall short of being exhaustive, but Collins does a fine job of filling the book with anecdotes and lifestyle descriptions of each generation. The end product is about as in-depth as could reasonably be expected, with the exception of the 1980s onward which are more or less a footnote. It's interesting to Really good straight forward account of women's experience in America, from the first western settlers to the beginning of the 21st century. Anything with a subject as broad as this is bound to fall short of being exhaustive, but Collins does a fine job of filling the book with anecdotes and lifestyle descriptions of each generation. The end product is about as in-depth as could reasonably be expected, with the exception of the 1980s onward which are more or less a footnote. It's interesting to see an account of women that isn't specifically an account of the feminist struggles as it gives a fuller picture of the lives women were expected to lead throughout history, including periods where there weren't any significant 'women's movements'.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Must read for all women to appreciate how far we've come and how lucky we are to live in the time and country we do! Must read for all women to appreciate how far we've come and how lucky we are to live in the time and country we do!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Needs to be read in history classes.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Hollingsworth

    Is this 1818, 1918, or 2018? Same struggles. Same conversations. Same resistance. March on!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    There aren't words to express how important this book is for every American woman to read. Every single page I would exclaim out loud to my husband, "I NEVER KNEW THIS!" The most valuable part for me is the centuries of context the book provided. My view of American women's history was confined more or less to the past hundred years—my grandmothers' generation. By starting from the New World in the 1500s and spanning until the 1960s, I got a much more nuanced and complete understanding of the ev There aren't words to express how important this book is for every American woman to read. Every single page I would exclaim out loud to my husband, "I NEVER KNEW THIS!" The most valuable part for me is the centuries of context the book provided. My view of American women's history was confined more or less to the past hundred years—my grandmothers' generation. By starting from the New World in the 1500s and spanning until the 1960s, I got a much more nuanced and complete understanding of the evolution of women's roles, and how they've been often influenced by economics. For instance, I had no idea that in the 1920s, women were holding more jobs and going to college at record rates. During World War II, they continued to work largely outside the home as men were fighting overseas. But when the men got home, most women quit, and "regressed" (controversial word, of course) to roles as homemakers. Cheap mortgages and veteran benefits allowed young families to pursue the "American dream" on one salary, which set the stage for the 1950s housewife, a phenomenon that's actually a very narrow slice of history. In the 1960s, women's roles expanded yet again (the birthrate decreased), only to change again in the 1980s, when society placed more value on women's appearance yet again (the decade in which I grew up and struggled greatly with how I was judged on my looks). I hope that we're now again on an upswing for women's access to every part of society.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    A very interesting book, and worth reading. However, the author's style changes significantly (for the better) the closer she gets to the present day. Perhaps that's due to better records and access to those who actually experienced life in that time period (or maybe it's because I was around for it), but the early part of the book seems to jump around quite a bit, making it hard to keep things straight. The book is well researched, but some of the author's conclusions seemed more personal than r A very interesting book, and worth reading. However, the author's style changes significantly (for the better) the closer she gets to the present day. Perhaps that's due to better records and access to those who actually experienced life in that time period (or maybe it's because I was around for it), but the early part of the book seems to jump around quite a bit, making it hard to keep things straight. The book is well researched, but some of the author's conclusions seemed more personal than reasoned (then again, I often think that about authors who make broad, sweeping, generalized statements describing a large group of people). I did learn a number of things, and have a deeper understanding of a number of issues that are specific to women.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sassa

    “America’s Women” is a broad overview of the many women who shaped history in the continent which is now the USA, from the 16th century onward. The book may serve mainly as a jumping point to study individuals of interest in more depth. The last chapter or two veers mostly into the social and political feminism movement and a discussion of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and not, disappointingly, into the naming of many other individual women who made huge contributions to society in the post W “America’s Women” is a broad overview of the many women who shaped history in the continent which is now the USA, from the 16th century onward. The book may serve mainly as a jumping point to study individuals of interest in more depth. The last chapter or two veers mostly into the social and political feminism movement and a discussion of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and not, disappointingly, into the naming of many other individual women who made huge contributions to society in the post WW2 timeframe. There are several novels that were popular in their time referenced in “America’s Women” I want to investigate as well as the lives of Sojurner Truth, Louisa Adams, Harry Burns involvement with Tennessee in making women’s right to vote national law.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Betty Adams

    I have always liked the author and here her use of much original and new material made this shine. The chapters are short, cleverly captioned and feature at least one representative (and not always well known) woman telling her story. Her inclusion of "the average woman" as opposed to the icons with whom we are familiar was fascinating. She exposed the warts of the icons making them more humanized. I found her discussion of the women's movement since the late 60s to be so encouraging. Straight, I have always liked the author and here her use of much original and new material made this shine. The chapters are short, cleverly captioned and feature at least one representative (and not always well known) woman telling her story. Her inclusion of "the average woman" as opposed to the icons with whom we are familiar was fascinating. She exposed the warts of the icons making them more humanized. I found her discussion of the women's movement since the late 60s to be so encouraging. Straight, gay, black, white, Latina, old, young, wealthy, and not wealthy we are amazing! Thank you, Gail Collins. I forgive some of the typos and grammatical error (it's Occoquan Prison, not Occoquam).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    WOW! Every female should read this book. Well-researched and so well written, I learned so much. The ad line, "You've come a long way, baby," is an understatement. It is a long book, 450 pages, but so worth the read. Gail Collins usual witty, , ironic style is not in evidence here. She writes in plain speak, presenting the facts as she discovered them. I highly recommend this book, especially to every girl in high school. The freedoms and opportunities available to women today were hard-fought f WOW! Every female should read this book. Well-researched and so well written, I learned so much. The ad line, "You've come a long way, baby," is an understatement. It is a long book, 450 pages, but so worth the read. Gail Collins usual witty, , ironic style is not in evidence here. She writes in plain speak, presenting the facts as she discovered them. I highly recommend this book, especially to every girl in high school. The freedoms and opportunities available to women today were hard-fought for.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pooja

    An informative read (if a little general), great for Woman's History Month. I especially enjoyed the sections of the book covering the colonial times, and appreciated the author making a point to include women of color in America's narrative. I did however think that the chapters on the 20th century were somewhat scanty, as much more detail devoted to earlier times. An informative read (if a little general), great for Woman's History Month. I especially enjoyed the sections of the book covering the colonial times, and appreciated the author making a point to include women of color in America's narrative. I did however think that the chapters on the 20th century were somewhat scanty, as much more detail devoted to earlier times.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    An excellent and very thorough history of women from the first colonization of America to present, though I believe the book came before the #MeToo movement. Ordinary and extraordinary women from different points in history are described, using their own words whenever possible, which shows how the role of women in America has changed even over a decade.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    First off, I experienced this book as an audio book. The reader enunciated well and read at an acceptable pace. Now on to the book itself. American Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines really is a four hundred year history of American women in the United States. It starts with the colonies, and the first European woman to give birth in America (Eleanor Dare), although obviously women had been having babies in America long before Eleanor and the Roanoke colony, all t First off, I experienced this book as an audio book. The reader enunciated well and read at an acceptable pace. Now on to the book itself. American Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines really is a four hundred year history of American women in the United States. It starts with the colonies, and the first European woman to give birth in America (Eleanor Dare), although obviously women had been having babies in America long before Eleanor and the Roanoke colony, all the way to the present and the women's liberation movement. In between, it details suffrage, women in the workplace, women's place in the wars, and more. And it goes into detail on certain women, like Annie Oakley and Harriet Tubman. A lot of history is covered here. With so many wonderful women to choose from its not surprising that Collins went with some of the obvious like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Betty Friedan. But it was nice to learn about Eleanor Dare, who I'd never even heard of before and a few other women that led extraordinary lives but are rarely mentioned in popular history. And it had stories about the average woman, and her reactions to the world around her and the restrictions placed on her life. Stories that were as mundane as what the style was for women (big hair anyone?) to those little known histories of the first slaves brought over and their jobs selling produce on the streets. There is a lot of history in this book. 400 years of it, although a bigger portion was spent on some areas of the book and it wasn't evenly doled out among the 400 years. In fact, suffrage was probably the biggest part of the book, with women's liberation following closely behind. While these are important topics, I would have loved to see as much detail go into the years before that as well. Sure we got the story of Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane, but it just wasn't as extensive. This book actually did go into some details I didn't expect though. In fact, it's the first book I've read where it actually talks about pads and tampons. And while the book predominately focused on European woman, it did go a little bit into the history of Black women and their rights as well. The introduction does apologize for not including other minorities on the basis of the history not being recorded as well. But overall, the book was well written, chock full of details, and an enjoyable bit of history (a genre I'm normally not too fond of). A very interesting book and well worth reading. It definitely brought some new topics of interest to my mind that I might want to research further. America's Women Copyright 2007 Audio Book Review by M. Reynard 2013 More of my reviews can be found at www.ifithaswords.blogspot.com

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