I have dragged my feet as of late in posting anything, mostly because my life has gotten a little busier during these last few months of the year. But also because when I started reading “When Everything Changed” by Gail Collins I realized right away that this was not the type of book that you read quickly and forgot about. It was well-researched and dense with information and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in gender studies as it relates to women’s rights in the U.S.
To be honest, I was skeptical when I started reading this book because books focusing on the history of women in the U.S. tend to identify with white women and leave women of color to the sidelines. While most of Collins’ research did focus on the experiences of white women, I did appreciate her chapters on women’s roles in the Civil Rights movements of the sixties. In fact, I would say that the highlights of the book were definitely the exposé on Ella Baker’s (often forgotten) work with SNCC, the sections highlighting women’s struggle with the airline industry to be hired as stewardesses based on qualifications other than appearance and waist size, and the breakdown in Chapter 11 of women’s attitudes towards husbands and children based on socioeconomic stratification.
ALL of the book was worth the time it took to get through, and I have found myself referencing different points and anecdotes Collins’ includes throughout in various table conversation. It provided a great foundation for understanding the feminist movements (waves) and the causes and effects of each one. My version of the book has underlines and notes throughout, and while reading I was surprised I caught myself scribbling in the margins, “this is the same as today!” or “what’s new.” It is amazing to see how far women have come in this country, but also not so surprising to see that many things have not changed.
Collins’ does a magnificent job of highlighting the many ways that feminism can manifest itself. Like any social-political movement it is messy in real-world application. There is no “right” way to be a woman, to be a “feminist” woman, or to be a feminist ally. But this book is a good start in order to grasp the great strides by the women that have come before, and how much further we have left to go.
Overall Score: 9 (can be kind of dense with information sometimes, but I loved every page!)