The beloved New York Times columnist "inspires women to embrace aging and look at it with a new sense of hope" in this lively, fascinating, eye-opening look at women and aging in America (Parade Magazine).
"You're not getting older, you're getting better," or so promised the famous 1970's ad -- for women's hair dye. Americans have always had a complicated relationship with aging: embrace it, deny it, defer it -- and women have been on the front lines of the battle, willingly or not.
In her lively social history of American women and aging, acclaimed New York Times columnist Gail Collins illustrates the ways in which age is an arbitrary concept that has swung back and forth over the centuries. From Plymouth Rock (when a woman was considered marriageable if "civil and under fifty years of age"), to a few generations later, when they were quietly retired to elderdom once they had passed the optimum age for reproduction, to recent decades when freedom from striving in the workplace and caretaking at home is often celebrated, to the first female nominee for president, American attitudes towards age have been a moving target. Gail Collins gives women reason to expect the best of their golden years.
This lively and well-researched compendium by New York Times columnist Collins (When Everything Changed) surveys older women's social roles and achievements throughout American history. Working chronologically starting with Martha Washington in the Colonial era and ending with the 90th birthday party for Muriel Fox, a cofounder of NOW Collins juggles vignettes, longer portraits of both well-known and comparatively obscure black and white women, and tales of racism, sexism, and ageism. She writes of Gidget and Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the abolitionist Grimk sisters; of the Rev. Pauli Murray, civil rights leader, and Rep. Millicent Fenwick, the "pipesmoking grandmother of eight" who represented New Jersey in Congress for eight years. She follows some women such as abolitionist and poet Lydia Maria Child and diplomat Eleanor Roosevelt through several decades. Collins portrays Elizabeth Cady Stanton as a "canny strategist" for raising her children before embarking on activism, thereby ensuring her respectability; credits the success of the civil rights movement to its older women; and describes a time when male doctors thought sex was fatal for women over 50. She inserts significant data with a light touch and leavens the subject matter with her signature humorous tone. This enjoyable and informative historical survey will delight Collins's fans and bring in some new ones.