Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bachelor Girl: 100 Years of Breaking the Rules--a Social History of Living Single” as Want to Read:
Bachelor Girl: 100 Years of Breaking the Rules--a Social History of Living Single
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Bachelor Girl: 100 Years of Breaking the Rules--a Social History of Living Single

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  803 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
In this lively and colorful book of popular history, journalist Betsy Israel shines a light on the old stereotypes that have stigmatized single women for years and celebrates their resourceful sense of spirit, enterprise, and unlimited success in a world where it is no longer unusual or unlikely to be unwed.

Drawing extensively on primary sources, including private journals
ebook, 320 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published October 8th 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bachelor Girl, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Bachelor Girl

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
In Bachelor Girl, Betsy Israel reconstructs the single American girl in all her manifestations -- suspicious early factory worker, bohemian, rule smashing flapper, 1970s mace toting single woman afraid of being raped or killed on her way home each night, 1980s ice queen -- using popular legend, newspaper clippings written by hysterical men afraid of new female independence, copious novels both well known and obscure, and occasionally, though sadly few remain from the earliest days of female sing ...more
An interesting read, but Bachelor Girl suffered from two major issues that kept popping up in the back of my brain while I read. First, it had a tendency to feel like propaganda, and this was in no way lessened by the author's "disclaimer" at the beginning that it's impossible to deal with the subject matter without sounding a bit feminist. Second, 99% of the book felt like a warning against being single for too long. There was a heavy emphasis on the negative viewpoints and very little presente ...more
Jan 06, 2012 AennA rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title tells us what exactly this book is all about - Bachelor Girl.

This brings us to the social history of single women as early as 13th century. You will discover the different "types" of single women of different generations, yet they suffer the same social stigma. Women were trained to be domesticated to meet their future husband's needs. Everyone expect women to get married, and whoever remained to be single suffers in workplaces with harsh working conditions and labor benefits. Thus, gi
James Eckman
Jan 25, 2016 James Eckman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This book covers the crap that society has dished out to single women over the years, though some of this turd fest applied to all women. Sources include movies and radio as well as the usual written materials. I got a bit angry thinking about what my mom went through and how she would have been much happier as a 21st century woman. Sadly this garbage still exists, though the areas and people who push it seem to be shrinking.

This book also covers the late 19th century, and includes an extensive
The title of this book really ought to read 'The Secret History of Single [American] Women in the [Late Nineteenth and] Twentieth Century[s], since that's actually what it's about - because I can forgive the author the omission in the interests of brevity.

It's a very good read, incredibly comprehensive, although the author does seem to spend much more time on the early part of the 20th century, from the turn of the century up to the 50s and then somewhat skims over (comparatively) the years betw
Christy Stewart
In 1862 W.R. Gregg suggested that to solve the problem of too many spinsters in England they should ship the excess women to settlements across the Atlantic. Replace 'Atlantic' with 'Space' and we have an amazing comic book on our hands.
Dec 10, 2007 Karie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its not just shriveled old ladies in houses filled with cats. Sisters are doin' it for themselves and have been for centuries. So step off. Some of us are allergic to cats.
Michele Bolay
Aug 30, 2010 Michele Bolay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rats! There were reserves on this one, so I had to bring it back to the library. Will get it again and finish it later. Loved what I had read so far.
Though the content was engaging, the lack of citations within the text and scanty bibliography at the end made this less a book of history and more a nostalgic rooting of today's single woman with her sisters throughout the century.
Burgundy Rose
Nov 24, 2011 Burgundy Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a 4.5 star-book. Sadly, Goodreads doesn't allow for half stars so I have to make do with an imperfect rating. Oh well.

Bachelor Girl is a riveting read. Its scope is both an asset and a fault - covering the representation of the single girl in all sorts of media and comparing it to the single girl's actual life, struggles and joys, and the author does so from the nineteenth century to basically Bridget Jones. It's interesting as an overview because it gives you so many starting points fro
Catelyn May
Jan 02, 2012 Catelyn May rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
Bachelor Girl is a heavily anecdotal history of single women in the twentieth century, and unlike other books which might focus on only one or two decades the progress of women from the Victorian era to the present is clear. The path from spinster to independent woman was long and fraught with, to me, a quite horrifying amount of sexism and misogyny.

This book has many first hand accounts by women who were young and single throughout the 1900s, and I think I gained a better understanding of femin
I had a hard time identifying the author's thesis. The collection of history and narrative was fascinating and constructed in an engaging way. I learned a lot about women's history, but a work like this really needed a little more psychology. If Israel's goal was to present the facts and let the reader decide the reason the history of single women has played out in the manner it has, she did a great job. But when it comes down to it, I know very, very few women who purposely choose to avoid gett ...more
Oct 12, 2010 Missjgray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a very readable history of single women. It's hard to say much more than you can infer from the back cover or the Amazon review.

I liked it most because of the new face this book, and the story it chronicles, showed me of feminism. The options are not either "bitchy-whore" or "conservative-babyfactory." Betsy Israel is clearly sympathetic to the concerns of the closer-to-hard-core type feminists. But, still not in a militant sense, at all. At least in this book, she keeps that off t
May 09, 2012 Eleanor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bachelor Girl by Betsy Israel reads a bit like a research paper, and she certainly has done a lot of research. The author admits at the beginning of the book that the scope of her research is limited to white woman, mainly in NYC, and it is not as all-encompassing as the title may suggest. Given all of this, I still think this was an interesting read and finished the book in two days. Pulling from the media, personal accounts, and popular culture, Israel paints a robust picture of single white w ...more
Kristen Northrup
It's an interesting experience to read two consecutive books on the same basic topic, one written by an academic and the other by a magazine writer. This one is the latter. The pluses were a more accessible, breezy writing style and less thesis-proving repetition. However, a lot of details didn't quite hold up to further research, which is why I finally knocked it down from 4 stars to 3. More definitions would have also helped, especially in terms of pharmaceuticals. A remarkable number of conte ...more
Sharayu Gangurde
Aug 03, 2010 Sharayu Gangurde rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every single girl and woman to be.
As Marie Claire said, A must-read for feminists with a sense of humour!!

I especially liked this book by Betsy Israel for its simple way of presenting ideas on Feminism and the entire movement right from the late 1800's to the 1963 Betty Friedan movement and till even as late as 1999. It captures readers attention and certainly made me more attentive unlike while i was reading The Feminine Mystique. It has some catchy stories, some bitchy and really disgusting facts about the bowery girls and spi
Andrea Luquetta
Dec 26, 2009 Andrea Luquetta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because this book is written with a light touch, with little academic-sounding prose even when its skewering its subject with critical analysis, the word that best describes this book is Fun! And its oh so useful even to a Latina like me who can't find herself, exactly, in the pages of this book but can find the many evolutions of the dominant social construction of the single (White)woman and, thus, how it informs and interacts with the various racialized constructions of the single woman of co ...more
Melissa Schmidty -Schmidt
Dec 29, 2012 Melissa Schmidty -Schmidt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loves
An indepth study of the much maligned phenomenon that is 'living singly'. This book reads at times like a graduate thesis and at other times like dishy coffee-talk. From the Gibson Girl and old maids to Bridget Jones and what she terms 'slacker spinsters', author Israel offers a comprehensive examination of the conditions, habits, perceptions and regulation (both social and legal) of the single woman from 1850 to present. Example: Unmarried women in the late 1800s were referred to as 'redundant ...more
Jan 20, 2010 LizG rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally, a book that explains the historic and cultural reasons for this obsession with getting women married off. It's fascinating really, but Give It a Rest already!

At least in this day and age we aren't burned at the stake for being single, though there is still some stigma.

Like being seated alone with people I didn't know at my niece's wedding, I guess because I was an "extra." (Whatever. I just grabbed my plate and joined the rest of my family at a now slightly crowded table.)

Like people
I always enjoy reading books about women who have chosen not to live conventional lives as dictated by the current societal rules and standards. Reading this book was a welcome reminder, as so many of my friends and former classmates get married or into serious relationships, that there is nothing particularly strange about being single and happy. Israel's chronological walk through the recent history of the single American woman is interesting, although sometimes not quite as in depth as could ...more
Hannah Brislin
Jun 13, 2015 Hannah Brislin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read. Truly empowering, yet, a truly terrifying view into the oppressive reality of single women throughout history. Betsy Israel did an amazing job researching the lives of single women, and compared the reality of single blessedness to the insulting, critical, asinine picture that was painted by politics, media, and society propaganda to scare women into marriage and family, whether said women wanted it or not. She created a book of well researched proof that single stigma, for wo ...more
Jun 28, 2007 HeavyReader rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: unmarried women who want to know their collective history
Shelves: feminist
A friend loaned me this book in September of 2006 when I did a 23 day drug study. The two psychotropic drugs I was taking affected me such that I fell asleep every time I tried to read. Now it's June 2007 and I am in another drug study and I finally finished read this book.

I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about single women in the US during the 20th Century. The writing was a little chattier than in needed to be and at times I felt the author was desperate to make me like her. Other
Leigh  Kramer
Aug 09, 2014 Leigh Kramer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could make everyone read this social history of single women. The way Israel depicts the stigma single women faced in each particular era and the ways this stigma plays out still to this day is equally fascinating and horrifying. It made me grateful to be single now instead of then, even though singleness today is not without its own challenges. It started out slow but then gathered steam.
Doug Bonar
Strung together snippets History as news clipping, quotes and capsule movie reviews. It was not a bad book, but there didn't seem to be any synthesis. Maybe I missed something important, but I ended up getting the feeling there have always been single young women struggling to make it in New York - the clothes changed, the jobs changed, etc. but it didn't seem like anything was changing for single women that wasn't also changing for single men, or married women.
From the title, clearly it's about women living on their own ... The most interesting part is how such women were/are viewed by the rest of society. Apparently people feel sorry for bachelor girls. That's not exactly earth-shaking, but it's something I tend to forget -- that someone out there could feel sorry for me based on the fact that I'm not married. Odd. Anyway, I do recommend the book for anyone who wants a quick read on the topic.
Marina Sinelnikova
May 12, 2014 Marina Sinelnikova rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-history
This is mostly a history of single girls in New York, and a bit of USA, but still very interesting - though a bit depressing, since you get the feeling that throughout most of that time woman not attached to a man and therefore unmoderated was an object of fear, threatening somehow. It made me want to read something of the stories of women mentioned here - those who found happiness in single lives, and how they did it.
Dec 05, 2009 Toni rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I probably would have given this a third star if it hadn't been for the truly dreadful final chapter. The rest was fairly interesting, except that the author relies far more on movies and television than actual real people, and her pop-psychology analyses are often pretty wild leaps (Garfield the cat as an embodiment of female stereotypes? )

Some parts were interesting, though it's certainly not a book I would recommend.

 SaЯRah Muhammad
Apr 20, 2015 SaЯRah Muhammad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: femininsm
really enjoyed her analysis of the cultural icons of the various decades. Her screenwriting background shows in her delightful analysis of a variety of films from the silent era all the way up through the recent television sitcoms. I think her final chapter is the weakest, but it's hard to analyize something while living in the middle of it.

I stayed up until one in the morning to finish the book which is a testiment to how well written it dis.
Patrick Elsey
I really wanted to give this book a better rating as I really enjoyed reading it.

However, the author's complete lack of understanding of primary and secondary sources to create a proper historiography honestly kills the book. The book uses movies are primary sources but doesn't mention the Hays code and doesn't understand the "blonde bombshell" look.
Interesting exploration of the evolution of the single girl through American history. Israel's writing is informal and compelling - not only does she genuinely find her topic interesting, she herself lived the single girl life until a later in life marriage. If nothing else, this book made me thankful for all the single women who came before me and cleared the way.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons
  • Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation
  • The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century
  • Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness
  • A Brief History of Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice
  • I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage
  • For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women
  • No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women
  • Virgin: The Untouched History
  • Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England
  • The Boundaries of Her Body: A Shocking History of Women's Rights in America
  • Sexism in America: Alive, Well, and Ruining Our Future
  • The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service
  • History of the Breast
  • America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines
  • Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild
  • Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York
  • Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage
A journalist and former editor who has contributed to the New York Times, Elle, Rolling Stone, GQ, Harper's Bazaar, Redbook, People, Mademoiselle, Vogue, New York, Spin, Playboy, and the Los Angeles Times, among many others. She is a former columnist for Glamour, Us, and New York Woman and was a contributing writer for Mirabella. She has written numerous screenplays and is the author of Grown-Up F ...more
More about Betsy Israel...

Share This Book

“Everyone loves the single girl. She is the adorable needy human equivalent of a stray pet others want to domesticate.” 1 likes
“the singular cry of the wild: hey! get your stroller off my sidewalk!” 0 likes
More quotes…