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When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present [Paperback]

Gail Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

2 Dec 2010
WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED begins in 1960 when American women actually had to get their husband's permission to apply for a credit card. In the years since, American women have witnessed exciting changes, expectations about what their lives could be smashed in just a generation. The story ends in the 21st century, with a woman winning a Presidential primary.
This book tells us how women got from there to here, in politics, fashion, economics, sex, families and work. A comprehensive mix of oral history and Gail Collins's keen research, WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED is the definitive book on five crucial decades of progress, told with the down-to-earth, amusing and agenda-free tone for which this beloved New York Times columnist is known. Collins spoke with the women who lived these transformative years, including 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 was required to bend over to light her passengers' cigars on a men-only 'Executive Flight'.

Picking up where her highly-lauded book America's Women left off, WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED is the dynamic story of cataclysmic change, a story Gail Collins seems to have been born to tel

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay; Reprint edition (2 Dec 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316014044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316014045
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.1 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 622,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A revelatory book for readers of both sexes, and sure to become required reading for any American women's-studies course." "Kirkus""

Book Description

Gail Collins, the esteemed New York Times columnist and bestselling author recounts the astounding revolution in women's lives over the past 50 years.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Kindle Edition
Gail Collins has followed her magnificent examination of the first 400 years of women's experience in America with a facsinating look at the last 60 years of the female experience and women's quest for equality. She begins in the immediate postwar period looking at the social forces that drove Rosie the Riviter back to home and hearth after 4 years on the shop floor, and then guides us through the seemingly quiescent and conformist decade of the 50's when for many women the "American Dream" was not offering the fulfillment they had expected. She gives us a detailed tour of the 60's, showing how the women's movement owes a debt to, and was intimately entwined with, the American civil rights movement, and how black women made major contributions to both. She examines the story and its intellectual impulses starting with the impact of Helen Gurley Brown's "Sex and the Single Girl," the arrival of The Pill and the sexual revolution that followed, "having it all" in the 70's and 80's, the conservative backlash led by women like Anita Bryant and ending with a detailed look at the political campaigns of Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2008 and what each of these women's experience says about how far women have come since 1945. While the focus of this book is America, the story has a broader resonance and should be read by anyone with an interest in the social history of the western world in the 20th century. That said, the women's movement was hardly confined to America, yet Collins makes no mention whatsoever of non-American feminists, such as Germaine Greer, whose "The Female Eunuch" had a huge impact in the U.S. and is certainly part of the American story. But that is perhaps the only shortfall I see in the book, and it is quite a small one, in my view view. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  140 reviews
114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We've Come A Long Way, Baby - But We Still Have A Long Way to Go 26 Oct 2009
By Carol M. Frohlinger - Published on Amazon.com
From June Cleaver to Hillary Clinton, Gail Collins` new book, When Everything Changed, reminds us of both how much everything has changed for American women in the last 50 years and just how little. Collins writes skillfully about the "olden" days when a glamour career for a woman was to be a stewardess and when the reason most women went to college to get a "Mrs.".

As accessible as she is on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, and as wryly funny, Collins illustrates the historical facts with the stories of real women including those whose names we all know (Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama) as well as those we would probably not know unless we read her book.

What Collins does particularly well though is to highlight that there still isn't gender parity in America's workplaces or homes. She ends on a note that celebrates how far we've come with a reality check - the gender pay gap still exists, too few women serve as CEOs or sit on corporate boards and the work-life balance conundrum has yet to be resolved.

When Everything Changed is an inspiring book. If we have forgotten the sacrifices and struggles of women who blazed the trail and take the fact that they changed the world, we should be reminded. And even if we haven't, Collins shows us that we have miles to go before we sleep.
76 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's how America's I.Q. was doubled 25 Oct 2009
By Theodore A. Rushton - Published on Amazon.com
Revolutions with the greatest lasting impact are sometimes the quietest events of their time, a description that applies to the dazzling struggle for equality that American women waged from 1960 to the present.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra O'Connor tells of graduating from Stanford Law School and being unable to get a job in any Phoenix law firm except as a file clerk. She grew up on an Arizona ranch where her Dad expected her to handle almost every job done by men; yet, even with a Stanford law degree, she was virtually shut out of the legal profession in Arizona.

Her court nomination was heralded as a major breakthrough. Why? Why is recognition of anyone's intelligence a "breakthrough"? Collins is a gifted writer who explains why equality is so radical, yet so just and inevitable.

O'Connor's career, and that of millions of other women during the past 50 years, is a genuine "revolution" in social attitudes. It changed America and the world without a shot being fired and only a few bras burnt. Accepting women as equals in all endeavours doubles the intelligence of any society. Fifty years ago, women had the choice of career or housework. Today, women have the right to hold almost any job (except submarine crews) they want.

It's a long complex and continuing effort. After the Equal Rights Amendment was abandoned, women by the millions set out to win their rights one issue and one job at a time. Collins tells a masterful story based on personal efforts. The "revolution" was privatized; nothing could stop it. This isn't a book of dull theory, bewildered opposition, political theory or arcane legal savvy; it is the stories of hundreds of people who made Equal Rights a fact of American life and an example for the world.

Often, great events are the product of great leaders motivated by great ideals. Instead, the campaign for women's rights involved dozens of leaders plus millions of individuals. This mass movement made it an inevitable event, despite the rage of Schlafly, Bryant and other conservatives who can't respect the right of people to make their own decisions.

The difference is subtle, yet profound. Personally, I grew up in a society whose formal head is the Queen of England. It took until the 1980s, and Canadians hailed it as a major breakthrough in equality, for a woman to be named Governor General of Canada (the Queen's representative). Really. Is it a cultural breakthrough when a woman is appointed to represent a woman? Or is it a century overdue?

For Canadians, a woman representing a woman is major progress. Yet, this incident typifies similar idiocies in the U.S. It is so logical as to defy explanation. However, changing attitudes is a genuine revolution. What is so strange about allowing anyone to use their full intelligence? Yet, as Collins deftly illustrates, it takes a lot of quiet cleverness to penetrate the fog of the status quo.

Collins cites example after example, showing how individuals overcame the idiocy of the incumbency. It is a beautiful, inspiring and very timely book in response to those who always say "No!" to every decent new idea.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book for all, but especially for young women 6 Nov 2009
By rosalind - Published on Amazon.com
Gail Collins has written a revealing book both for those women of a "certain age" who lived through the events she chronicles and for those who are too young to know how difficult a journey it has been. The names everyone knows are here but the real beauty of this book lies in the stories of those unheralded and brave women who, at great personal cost, stood their ground and made a difference. Collins's witty, concise, reportorial style makes for a delightful read, once past the somewhat leaden introduction.

I learned many surprising things about where we were in the decades of my early adulthood and about how we came to be where we are now, as well as how far we have to go if we do not backslide. Collins skillfully puts the progress of women into the larger picture of social history.

This book is my holiday gift of choice for all the women in my family, especially daughters and daughters-in-law. They are the ones who will continue the amazing journey, provided they heed the warnings Collins implies.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A terrific book, but more "herstory" needed 7 Nov 2009
By Millie A. Loeb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is something ironic in finding a link to an excerpt of this book in AARP's website. This is a book as much for my daughter as for those in my generation who lived through this entire period. Gail Collins has done a stellar job of telling the story of women's struggle for equality during these past five decades, with enough wit and anecdotes to make the narrative always lively. But I hope others will follow suit and write about stories she didn't have the space to include -- for example, about the women who flooded therapy programs, graduating with a new consciousness which was passed to their primarily female clients; about the women whose novels and criticism changed a generation's mind (e.g., THE WOMEN'S ROOM, WRITING A WOMAN'S LIFE, BELOVED, THE WOMAN WARRIOR, et al); the women who bankrolled the movement at critical moments, such as Peg Yorkin, Joan Palevsky, and Barbara Dobkin, among others and those that changed the landscape using the resources of major institutions like the Ford Foundation); the women whose efforts on campuses transformed undergraduate and graduate learning, including curriculum, pedagogy, and the canon; the women who fought for and gained some equality in the major religions; the women, like Judy Chicago, whose The Dinner Party opened the door to looking at herstory from a new artistic perspective. So my only quibble with the book is that it did not include as much social, intellectual, literary, and artistic history as I may have wished. However, its political history is superb. I hope Ms. Collins or others will follow suit and write a companion volume.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Herstory! 6 Nov 2009
By David M. Sherman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Finally, someone has written an accessible, readable book about a critical period in American history. I thoroughly enjoyed reading "When Everything Changed." This is a wonderful, creative, and informative book about a revolution that seems to have gone unnoticed. For those of us who lived through these tumultuous times, the book is a refresher, a reminder of the struggle that was both personal and historical in nature. For those of you under thirty-five, it is a must read. You must know where you have been, to know where you are, so that you can know where you are going. You must understand your Herstory. (My only negative is minor. I understand that Ms. Collins did not set out to write the "definitive" history of the time period. But, I was distracted from some of the main points by too much reliance on the individual stories. On occasions, I felt overwhelmed by too much anecdotal information, too many quotations, and too many stories of individuals; albeit, fascinating in there own right. More analysis and less reliance on individual stories would have made this a truly great book.) On the whole, however, I highly recommend this book to all. I only wish this book was published when I was teaching my Herstory Unit! Oh, the stories you would be able to tell your students....It should be in every library from middle school and up. It should be on the reading list of every history teacher. Everyone will enjoy this excellent history.
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