Divided Lives: American Women in the Twentieth Century (American Century Series)

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9780809097845: Divided Lives: American Women in the Twentieth Century (American Century Series)

Winner of the 1983 Fredrick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians.

American women have made great strides in the last century to win personal autonomy, sexual freedom, economic independence, and legal rights. Yet the vast majority of them still assume the domestic burdens that leave men free to play their traditional public roles. Examining women's lives in the larger context of U.S. social and political history, Rosenburg shows how American traditions of federalism, racial and ethnic diversity, geographic mobility, and relative abundance have both aided and hindered women's strides toward equality.This lively and informed analysis of the leaders, goals, and setbacks of the women's stride towards equality. This informed analysis of the leaders, goals, and setbacks of the women's movement is a landmark study.

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About the Author:

Rosalind Rosenburg, professor of history at Barnard College, is the author of Beyond Separate Sphers: Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A solid and well-written, if analytically unexceptional, overview of the complex experience of modern American women. Attempting to unify conflicting theoretical approaches to woman's experience, Rosenberg (History/Barnard) traces the origins and interactions of conceptual schemes (which stress, variously, the essential sameness of men and women, women's uniqueness, and the importance of race and class) against the larger context of social, political, and economic change. She identifies a central dilemma of 20-century American women--that of ``divided lives- -divided between domestic and paid labor, and divided from one another''--and charts its manifestations through a straightforward, chronological narrative. Skillfully interweaving a wealth of secondary sources, including autobiography, scholarly studies, and statistical data, the author moves from the world of Progressive Era reformers through the WW II mobilization of ``womanpower,'' the cold war return to domesticity, the activism of the 1960's, and on to today's fundamentally different but still evolving landscape. Unfortunately, this framework undermines the text's analytical potential by diffusing recurrent themes (e.g., an emphasis on the shared experience of motherhood, or the comparable-vs.-equal-work debate) instead of exploring them systematically. The book's largely admirable inclusiveness also gives it a certain superficiality, as in the frustratingly brief sketches of such notables as ERA-stalwart Alice Paul and legal scholar Pauli Murray. These deficiencies blunt the impact of Rosenberg's otherwise provocative conclusion that ``women are changing more quickly than men'' and that ``until men catch up, inequality will persist and tensions continue.'' A sturdy jumping-off point that should leave interested readers poised to plunge into deeper, more challenging works. -- Copyright 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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