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The Women's Room

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  5,598 Ratings  ·  428 Reviews
An alternate cover edition can be found here.

The bestselling feminist novel that awakened both women and men, The Women's Room follows the transformation of Mira Ward and her circle as the women's movement begins to have an impact on their lives. A biting social commentary on an emotional world gone silently haywire, The Women's Room is a modern classic that offers piercin
Paperback, 526 pages
Published May 1st 1997 by Little Brown and Company (first published May 1st 1977)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Awakening by Kate Chopin
Best Feminist Fiction
24th out of 1,093 books — 2,260 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëA Room of One's Own by Virginia WoolfThe Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Best Feminist Books
59th out of 1,412 books — 2,025 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jan 23, 2008 Louise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thebestofalltime
It had been a really shocking expreince for a girl of 16 in Tehran to read the story of a woman in the 60s who had almost the same situation the women today in Iran have.
I had read a room of one's own & so many other feminist (?) books by the time, but I can not say that they had that great effect on me... It was so awakening.
Jul 10, 2012 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rebecca by: Landi Turner
Wow. I'm not sure how to encapsulate this important 500-page feminist novel in a review, so I'll keep my comments brief and just suggest strongly that anyone with an interest in feminist thought or feminist history must read this incredibly raw, honest and ominous novel.

It's one of those vital books that has fallen off of our radar. Apparently it was extremely popular when it came out in 1977, but I'm aghast that my generation has, for the most part, not even heard of it. Though a historic nove
One of a circle of neighbors who for a period of months sometime in the seventies gathered nearly every afternoon to talk and have a drink before dispersing to prepare meals for families loaned me this book or recommended it - I think I went and bought my own copy to read. I began it about 4:30 one day and think there may have been pizza at my house for dinner that evening because I barely stopped reading from the moment I began to the moment I finished -- which was around 10:30 the next ...more
Jun 18, 2009 Alice rated it it was amazing
What I learned from this book:

- I am about as privileged as is possible in terms of when and where I was born.
- This fact isn't going to shield me from the more insidious forms of subordination that still permeate most things.
- Generational patterns are really difficult to break, and if we think "everything's different now" we're overlooking some pretty big similarities.
- There's still a hell of a lot of work to do.
- I really don't want to get married.
Occasionally I hear a misinformed person who says something along the lines of "Feminism is no longer needed in our society" and a piece of me dies each time I hear it. I read quite a bit, and it's when I read things like French's 1977 novel The Women's Room that makes me realize just how important feminism and the Women's Movement has been in America. Because it's not so much that I can read this book and say "Wow, it's so good this shit doesn't happen anymore" - it's because I can read this bo ...more
Megan Baxter
Nov 11, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it it was amazing
In one of those odd synchronicities, I was midway through the first half of this book when my husband and I watched the second-to-last episode of From Earth to the Moon, The Original Wives' Club. What struck me about the women in the episode was that, although the show painted it as the extraordinary sacrifices these women made to support their astronaut husbands, most of what they showed was exactly mirrored in The Women's Room as the things that most suburban housewives did.

Note: The rest of
One of the things that I noticed in skimming other reviews of this book is that it seems to be extremely polarizing - either people love it and hold it up as a seminal feminist text, or they hate it (for much the same reason). Plainly speaking, your opinion on feminism will likely be your opinion on this book. It doesn't pretend to be apolitical in the least.

In that respect, as I write this review in 2015, I find myself wondering if this book is actually relevant anymore. It's definitely somethi
Feb 08, 2012 Mandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plus ça change....I didn't expect this key text of the feminist movement to have the same impact on me that it did all those decades ago, but in fact it had even more of an impact on me this time, because I've now had children and a lot of the book - the best part of it actually - is about being a mother, and the conflicts that arise from that. But what really struck me was how little things have changed in women's personal lives. In theory we now have equality, and in theory can aspire to ...more
Jan 14, 2008 KW rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those interested in women's studies, domestic life, gender in the 1950s and 1960s
Shelves: novels
In retrospect, I can say that, while "The Women's Room" wasn't always an enjoyable book, it was an important book, a narrative worthy of my time and attention in that it is a significant perspective of the life of the middle-class woman pre- and post- second wave feminism. It is often difficult for young adult women to appreciate our nearness, in terms of decades, to an American system which legalized and regulated the condemnation of the single woman. However, Marilyn French creates engaging ...more
Sep 07, 2007 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An important book for me (and for more than a few women I know). The Women's Room is sort of Betty Friedan/The Feminine Mystique in novel form. The depictions of the middle-class lives of women and mothers in the 1950s and early 1960s are compelling. The stories of the women who moved in or into other realms in the later 1960s and through the 1970s show that sexism certainly didn't evaporate with feminism or with womens' moves out of an entirely domestic sphere.
Amy Conchie
Dec 11, 2011 Amy Conchie rated it did not like it
My mother gave me 'the Women's Room' with the caveat that when she first read it it made her so angry that she wouldn't speak to my father all weekend (the poor man did nothing!). It is this brand of feminism that, as a practical but vocal advocate of women's continual advancement, thoroughly riles me up. The worthless proselytizing characters are barely more than two-dimensional; the plot conveniently buckles in order to ensure they receive the most punishment at the hands of their oppressors. ...more
Nov 21, 2008 Hannah rated it really liked it
What can I say? The Women's Room was a rollercoaster ride of a book. It's unapologetically depressing from the very start, almost too brazenly in-your-face till midway, where Mira's life starts seemingly (dare I say it) comforming (!) to stereotypical feminists of the 70s. Then suddenly, about 100 pages till the end of the book, it's like one bomb drops after the other and by the end of it all, the reader is left as weary as Mira's narrative. I understand how this book would have been highly inf ...more
Mar 30, 2012 BohoAutumn rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2012-read
I doubt that many young (this generation) readers could relate to this book. And I think that is wonderful - because it is due to this book, others like it, and all the women of the past who questioned and caused changes that this generation can feel freer as women.

But it is also risky to dismiss it. We need to go beyond the specifics of the 50s/60s/70s woman and to the fundamentals.

Today, in 2012, in developed countries, women still do the majority of the housework, still do the majority of th
Jun 03, 2016 Nicole rated it did not like it
I don't know what this was, but it wasn't a novel.

Certainly not a good one. People say, the men in it are not developed, I say, yeah, neither are the women. These aren't people, they are cases in point. It's long, it's heavy-handed, it's off-putting, it's profoundly depressing, and whatever its intentions, it leaves a reader with the impression that the women's movement has left women more unhappy than ever (which I doubt very much is what French was hoping to accomplish).

I am also extremely ti
Terri Lynn
Jul 07, 2011 Terri Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was 18 years old and just starting college when this book was published. That is when I read it. I was taking a course in cultural anthropology and my professor, a lesbian who was a strong feminist, had become something of a role model for me because I wanted to earn a doctorate myself though not in her field. I heard from so many males that they all knew we were there to earn our MRS degree and nothing more. As I read this book and examined how completely it rang true, I was so enraged, my ...more
Feb 10, 2010 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Wow, I had to force myself through to the end of this book. I think if I had read this as a young idealistic college student, I would have that it was incredible. Reading it as a 45 year old professional in a male dominated field, I am discouraged by how little has actually changed. The media, politics and academia still drive home the predominant themes when it comes to women, and they are destructive themes. I see it every day in my female patient population. Overall, this book just depressed ...more
This book was awesome. I decided to read it since in skimming the first few pages of the book in the store that I could learn about the atmosphere for being a young married woman in the 1950's and 1960's which would give me insights into what my own mother went through. The book was compelling and rich in the character development and I can understand how it influenced a generation of women who read it when it was originally published in 1977. I only wish I had discovered this book sooner. I am ...more
Ronald Wise
Aug 01, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel has been in my personal collection since 1981, when I first read it and was deeply touched by certain scenes, but had since forgotten most of it. Reading it 26 years later brought back some of the earlier memories, but now through an awareness of how my perceptions have changed since then. Perhaps no longer directly relevant to the feminist cause today, this book is still a powerful overview of women's issues from my and my parents's generations. This one has re-emerged near the top ...more
Oct 07, 2007 Elyssa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, feminism
I first read this in college and a few times after that. It really brought to life the concepts outlined in The Feminine Mystique. It illustrated the roots of the feminist movement, which were mostly based on women's discontent and emptiness about being limited to the role of wife and mother. The characters are pretty much middle class white women, which is not the voice of all feminists at that time, but still an interesting one.
Feb 01, 2009 Alex rated it liked it
This has taken me a good 6 months to finish - I kept putting it down and then going back to it. I can see why it was shattering at the time, and how it was instrumental in raising consciousness about the position of women in society, but really, I was just irritated by the end with its clunkiness, and tendency to thematically bash you over the head while driving its none too subtle point home. But hey, glad not to be a housewife in the 70s, or housewife period, for that matter...
Mar 11, 2008 Holly rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
I thought this book was amazing and eye-opening when I read it in high school (college?) Young and idealistic and raised ina conservative home and all that.

Now it just smacks of a brand and era of feminism that I can't relate to anymore.
Megan Ammer
Jul 20, 2016 Megan Ammer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I chose to read this book because some website had labeled it "the most feminist book of past generations," and that description is so real that I can't believe modern feminists aren't talking about it more. The story focuses on a close knit group of graduate students, all women, who recall their pasts, enjoy the present, and calculate the future through personal experiences. Sort of a generic summary, but the notability of the story comes from the feminist history, thought, and theory that each ...more
Oct 05, 2009 Maren rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A feminist classic, no doubt, and one that I really enjoyed for about 3/4 of the way through. The last 1/4 of the book I barely skimmed so it technically should go into my "tried but failed" pile, though that's usually where I consign books that I can't even get past page 20 of.

So, this wasn't like that, though I do think The Women's Room loses its thrust around halfway through. In following a character named "Mira" and the group of women who come in an out of her life (a mix of other housewive
Sep 18, 2014 Swati rated it really liked it
I found The Women's Room brilliant in parts. I loved how close to reality the stories were. I haven't read any feminist literature before, but in a lot of movies/TV shows that I've seen on this topic, the male is shown to resort to violence against the female; hardly anything that I've seen portrays the other problem- about how men make women feel invisible, how they assume their ambitions don't matter at all, their jobs are to basically serve them all life. The Women's Room does this absolutely ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Lisa rated it really liked it
Wow! What a book. I have been puzzled and bothered about the way men and women relate to one another all my life. Having been a married woman for 20 years, I have experienced or witnessed equivalent scenarios to several of the characters in the book. The book takes the reader through stages of life. That is realistic. The characters are each like people I have known or would like to know. That is reassuring-my experience is shared. Relationships are hard. Life is challenging. The book makes that ...more
Jan 01, 2010 Melanie rated it it was amazing
This is truly one of the absolute best books I have ever read. Marilyn French is a genius. For any woman who has ever struggled with anything in her life, no matter how large or small. This book should be a must read. Read with an open mind and the whole book takes on a different tone. It is so powerful to know that the messages in this are timeless. I ran across a quote and this book in college and then saw in in a used book pile in the library several years ago. My copy is bruised and scarred ...more
Eve Kay
May 22, 2016 Eve Kay rated it it was amazing
The beauty of The Women's Room, for me, lays in the way it's written. It's well put together and constructed. The story moves in the right pace, the book's not too long and it reaches levels deeper than just the main plot. In addition to a story that is interesting and moving, thought provoking and enjoyable, there is a whole lot of thought put into the way society works, the way we work within it's borders and where we are going. The book is heavy in its topic but written in the way that it doe ...more
Chris Tait
Aug 17, 2014 Chris Tait rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've rated this book five stars because it was one of the catalysts that came together in 1980 to change my life forever. Rating it as a work of literature would use an entirely different criteria. I've never wished to reread it as I'm sure my critical eye would kick in. I'd rather hold the memories of this book being at the centre of the first meaningful conversations I had that year that eventually gave me the courage to walk away from an abusive marriage.

It was a novel of its time. It served
Apr 23, 2007 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, feminism
A little too much like a list of happenings, but a lot of ideas about feminism and the different approaches people take to it. The only thing, every male character was a stock character, but then that wasn't so much a bad thing.
Jun 29, 2014 Sadie rated it really liked it
I read this book at 14 and it changed my outlook forever. Might feel dated now, but such an illuminating story which had to be told.
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The F-word: March FICTION selection THE WOMEN'S ROOM 23 56 Apr 11, 2016 12:20PM  
Also abandoned reading The woman's Room 1 9 Oct 13, 2015 12:20PM  
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She attended Hofstra University (then Hofstra College) where she also received a master's degree in English in 1964. She married Robert M. French Jr. in 1950; the couple divorced in 1967. She later attended Harvard University, earning a Ph.D in 1972. Years later she became an instructor at Hofstra University.

In her work, French asserted that women's oppression is an intrinsic part of the male-domi
More about Marilyn French...

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“There was no justice, there was only life. And life she had.” 19 likes
“She drowned in words that could not teach her how to swim.” 16 likes
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