Jessica's Reviews > When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present

When Everything Changed by Gail Collins
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's review
Nov 18, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: history, non-fiction
Read from October 15 to November 13, 2011

Collins charts the rapid cultural shifts that brought women into the public realm: from elected offices to the military and professional schools to careers in law, medicine and business. She keeps the narrative moving by mixing historical facts with personal stories of women, famous and unknown, who pushed for equal pay, equal rights and equal opportunities. You read about Bella Abzug and Sandra Day O'Connor, but also Lorena Weeks, whose case against Southern Bell forced the company to open its higher-paying jobs to women, and Lori Piestewa, the first woman killed in the second Iraq war.

A chapter on the civil rights movement explains how the woman's movement connected, and didn't, with the struggle for racial equality. Interwoven throughout the book is the message that many of the rights and choices belonged to the middle class; poor women always worked outside the home and struggled with childcare. Collins analyzes some of the major legislation and social milestones and concludes that while the general acceptance of women as intellectual equals was undoubtedly a force for positive change in the United States, the results were not exactly what the feminists of the 1960s anticipated. And though society's views and mores changed quickly, it wasn't quite fast enough for many of the women who started it all.

"But for the most part, the generation that took the risks, filed the suits, held the press conferences, and made the demands were not the ones who benefited."

Recommended for everyone. Even if you know the women's history of this era, Collins' writing is sharp, brisk and occasionally funny, and you won't forget the stories she tells. I think it would be fascinating to discuss this book with women of multiple generations and it would be a marvelous book club pick.

I am a longtime fan of Collins and so I am willing to overlook that she put the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis and not St. Paul.

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Reading Progress

11/08/2011 page 225
48.0% "Enjoying this book but am alternating with some fiction."

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin This sounds like a good read, if only because I like the show Pan Am, which is really making me think about the differences between then and now.

Jessica When I learned some of this history the first time, I was younger but the 1960s felt like ancient history to me. Now that I am 40, I am realizing how many changes occurred either right before I was born or when I was a small child.

message 3: by Ellyn (new) - added it

Ellyn Thanks for this recommendation, can't wait to get it.

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