Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When Everything Changed

Publisher's Summary. Picking up where her previous successful, and highly lauded book, America's Women, left off, Gail Collins recounts the sea change women have experienced since 1960. A comprehensive mix of oral history and Collins's keen research, this is the definitive book about five crucial decades of progress, told with the down-to-earth, amusing, and agenda-free tone this beloved New York Times columnist is known for. The interviews with women who have lived through these transformative years include an advertising executive in the 60s who was not allowed to attend board meetings that took place in the all-male dining room; and an airline stewardess who remembered being required to bend over to light her passengers' cigars on the men-only 'Executive Flight' from New York to Chicago.

We, too, may have forgotten the enormous strides made by women since 1960--and the rare setbacks. "Hell yes, we have a quota [7%]" said a medical school dean in 1961. "We do keep women out, when we can." At a pre-graduation party at Barnard College, "they handed corsages to the girls who were engaged and lemons to those who weren't." In 1960, two-thirds of women 18-60 surveyed by Gallup didn't approve of the idea of a female president. Until 1972, no woman ran in the Boston Marathon, the year when Title IX passed, requiring parity for boys and girls in school athletic programs (and also the year after Nixon vetoed the childcare legislation passed by congress). What happened during the past fifty years--a period that led to the first woman's winning a Presidential Primary--and why? The cataclysmic change in the lives of American women is a story Gail Collins seems to have been born to tell.

Review. Can you figure out this answer to this riddle?
“A man and his son were in a car accident. The man died on the way to the hospital, but the boy was rushed into surgery. The surgeon said “I can't operate, for that's my son!” How is this possible?”

When I first heard this riddle as a girl in the ‘70’s I was stumped for the answer. Thanks to the women’s movement modern girls are probably (hopefully!) quickly able to discern the answer. This is because everything has changed for women. While the glass ceiling still exits and stereotypes abound, generally, women are free to be, do, and own almost anything that was once reserved for men only.

When Everything Changed by Gail Collins details the historical changes from 1960 to the present, and examines the impact of these events on the lives of ordinary women. As Collins explains, once upon a time, men and women existed in different societal spheres, with men occupying the higher level:

Then, suddenly, everything changed. The cherished convictions about women and what they could do were smashed in the lifetime of many women living today. It happened so fast that the revolution seemed to be over before either side could really find its way to the barricades. And although the transformation was imperfect and incomplete, it was still astonishing.

When Everything Changed is an entertaining, but more importantly, a knowledgeable book of recent history that should be read by women of all ages!
Oh and here is the answer to the riddle: the surgeon is the boy’s mother.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 14, 2009), 480 pages
Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.


  1. I have this book on my Kindle and hope to get to it this year. I'm not much of a non-fiction reader, but some books really catch my eye. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Sounds like an interesting read!

  3. I do enjoy regular doses of non fiction, so I can't wait to read this one Kim; thanks for the great review.