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America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  4,245 ratings  ·  519 reviews
A landmark work of history telling the story of more than four centuries of history featuring a stunning array of personalities.

America's Women tells the story of more than four centuries of history. It features a stunning array of personalities, from the women peering worriedly over the side of the Mayflower to feminists having a grand old time protesting beauty pageants
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Paperback, 572 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 20th 2004)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  4,245 ratings  ·  519 reviews


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Meredith Holley
I took a survey pair of classes in college called History of Women in the U.S., and they were two of my favorite college classes of all time. I had always had a love-hate relationship with history. Some of it is so fascinating, and it is always interesting to me to see how current culture and politics echoes the culture and politics of the past, but, on the other hand, sometimes history seems to be all wars and generalities. It is often zeitgeist and statistics, rather than subtlety and story. B ...more
Dana Stabenow
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Gail Collins’ America’s Women (400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines) reads like the women studies class I was never offered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It should be required reading for every US high school student today. Listen to some of this stuff:

The most famous runaway slave…was [Harriet Tubman:]…In 1849, when she was about thirty years old, she heard rumors that she was about to be sold and escaped. Making her way to Philadelphia, she cleaned houses until she had
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Clare
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
While reading this I called myself a feminist for the first time in my life. My former discomfort with that label was embarrassing; I acknowledge the younger generations' ingratitude towards those who struggled for women's rights, but despite my gratitude and delight in the current freedoms, I couldn't embrace the concept of feminism without feeling like I was being tongue-in-cheek or somehow self-mocking.

I believe there are nature-bound differences, which can be studied and exposed, between t
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Wayne Barrett
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction, history

This was a very informative book on the trials and triumphs of women in America. It's hard to believe that it took until the late 60's and early 70's for women to gain even ground with men. And even at that time it was just the beginning of an uphill battle. I tried to put myself in the mindset of a woman as I read the book and I believe there were moments when I would have been extremely proud and moments when I would have been extremely pissed.

From the mindset of a man, I also felt extremely
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Becky
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I studied military history in school, I studied maritime history for fun, I served 8 years in the military, I rock climb, etc. I have never worn pink. So when I received this book as a Christmas present I thought “how odd.” A decidedly girly book for such a tomboy.

I am so embarrassed by my utter lack of appreciation for, and knowledge of, the women who came before me, that fought for my right to an education, to serve in the military, hell, to even wear pants! This book gets 5 stars for not only
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Jessica Jeffers
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, nonfiction
I read Collins' When Everything Changed a few years ago and was blown away. Part oral history, part research-driven narrative, it told the story of the role that women played in the US from the 1960s to 2008, the year before it was published and Hillary Clinton made her first presidential run.

I immediately bought this book, which is a history of women in the US from the 1600s up until the 60s, but it took me forever to get around to actually reading it and I don't know why. It essentially feels
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Thomas Ray
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trivia
"In 1921 Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act, a step toward a national system of well-baby clinics to improve the health of the poor. But physicians felt it threatened their practices, and when it became clear that women were not going to vote as a bloc, it was phased out." (p. 340 of 556. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepp...)

Woman suffrage seemed inconsequential. Women voted by loyalty to class, ethnic group, and religion, as men did. (p. 338)

"Alfred C. Kinsey's 1953 Sexual Be
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HBalikov
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
American women should read this book, but more importantly, men should read this book. Even though Gail Collins doesn't call this a history book, it is an important gender history of the USA. This is not dry dates and places history. In fact, it is likely that you have had only a little of what Ms. Collins brings in any of the history courses you have taken: high school, college or beyond.

The charm and uniqueness of this very readable book is its reliance on original source materials: journals,
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Natalie Lin
Jul 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
An engrossing history composed of palatable anecdotes, blunt humor, and plain facts that will affirm, incense, and convulse by turns. Not scholarly, but well-informed and intimately written.
Sara Klem
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
The scope of this book is just...massive. This is a plus because I felt like I learned a lot from it, ending up jotting down names of women I wanted to read more about, but it's also the book's downfall because I felt like it glossed over women who were not white or African American. It definitely left you wanting for more at certain points. Still, it was a great read, and Gail Collins does not sugar coat. She answers many of the questions you want answered about women of the past (how the hell ...more
Christina
Jan 13, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
From Eleanor Dare's voyage to the New World to Betty Friedan's march down Fifth Avenue, Collins uses individual women as a framework for her discussion of the four-hundred-year history of women in America. Starting with the lost colony of Roanoke Island and spanning several wars, the pioneering days, the Great Depression, the era of Rosie the Riveter, and the civil rights movement before ending with minimal commentary of the past three decades, the book explains how the lives of women were alter ...more
Jennifer
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book records the changes in American women's lives and the transformations in American society from the 1580s through the 2000s.

I appreciated that the author included women of all races, backgrounds, education levels, etc. She talks about the accomplished women of history but also highlights many who were obscure but still important.

This excerpt from Publisher's Weekly sums it up pretty well: The basis of the struggle of American women, postulates Collins, "is the tension between the yearn
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Chelsea
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic. It's not an in depth study of women in America by any means - how can it be, when it does, in fact, cover every one of the 400 years mentioned in the title? - but Collins hits on all the important figures and movements, well known or obscure, and provides a wonderful collection of notes with lists of her favorite sources. I'm a little afraid of just how big my to-read list is going to get now.
Anna W
Nice overview of women's history in America, but so broad that it lacks much depth. Easy read if quite long, feels more like journalism rather than history.
Anne
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anne by: Amazon

Collins covers various aspects of life for American women from the early settlers up through the 1960s, with a very hurried last couple chapters spanning the time after that (but that time period is covered in much more detail in a more recent book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present). Her writing is not overly academic, which I greatly appreciate, as it was clear and easy to process. She tells history largely through anecdotes but definitely
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D
Apr 16, 2015 rated it liked it
an enjoyable but fairly incomplete review of the women of america, punctuated with the most famous, giving a great deal of time to explaining developing cultural impact through the ages.

the author acknowledges right up front in the foreword that the title has a problem with intersectionality and giving adequate time to nonwhite, non-middle-class and -rich players. pocahontas is cursorily discussed, and brief mentions are given to native american women and their culture. but the narration is almo
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Thom Sutton
Apr 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Really good straight forward account of women's experience in America, from the first western settlers to the beginning of the 21st century. Anything with a subject as broad as this is bound to fall short of being exhaustive, but Collins does a fine job of filling the book with anecdotes and lifestyle descriptions of each generation. The end product is about as in-depth as could reasonably be expected, with the exception of the 1980s onward which are more or less a footnote.
It's interesting to
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Rowan
May 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book gave me "Stuff You Missed in History Class" vibes and was an entertaining read, but I think it's misleading to call it "America's Women" when there is so much erasure of minority women. Black pioneers didn't get nearly enough time in the book when Collins took the time to quote journal entries from everyday white women; lesbian and Latina women got maybe 3 mentions each; the most notable mention of Native American women was Pocahontas; and I don't remember reading anything about Asian ...more
Laura
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Must read for all women to appreciate how far we've come and how lucky we are to live in the time and country we do!
Christine
Needs to be read in history classes.
Nancy Hollingsworth
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Is this 1818, 1918, or 2018? Same struggles. Same conversations. Same resistance. March on!
Christine
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There aren't words to express how important this book is for every American woman to read. Every single page I would exclaim out loud to my husband, "I NEVER KNEW THIS!" The most valuable part for me is the centuries of context the book provided. My view of American women's history was confined more or less to the past hundred years—my grandmothers' generation. By starting from the New World in the 1500s and spanning until the 1960s, I got a much more nuanced and complete understanding of the ev ...more
Sassa
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
“America’s Women” is a broad overview of the many women who shaped history in the continent which is now the USA, from the 16th century onward. The book may serve mainly as a jumping point to study individuals of interest in more depth.
The last chapter or two veers mostly into the social and political feminism movement and a discussion of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and not, disappointingly, into the naming of many other individual women who made huge contributions to society in the post W
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Betty Adams
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
I have always liked the author and here her use of much original and new material made this shine. The chapters are short, cleverly captioned and feature at least one representative (and not always well known) woman telling her story. Her inclusion of "the average woman" as opposed to the icons with whom we are familiar was fascinating. She exposed the warts of the icons making them more humanized. I found her discussion of the women's movement since the late 60s to be so encouraging. Straight, ...more
Helen
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All women
WOW! Every female should read this book. Well-researched and so well written, I learned so much. The ad line, "You've come a long way, baby," is an understatement. It is a long book, 450 pages, but so worth the read. Gail Collins usual witty, , ironic style is not in evidence here. She writes in plain speak, presenting the facts as she discovered them. I highly recommend this book, especially to every girl in high school. The freedoms and opportunities available to women today were hard-fought f ...more
Hillary
An excellent and very thorough history of women from the first colonization of America to present, though I believe the book came before the #MeToo movement. Ordinary and extraordinary women from different points in history are described, using their own words whenever possible, which shows how the role of women in America has changed even over a decade.
Melissa
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
First off, I experienced this book as an audio book. The reader enunciated well and read at an acceptable pace. Now on to the book itself.

American Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines really is a four hundred year history of American women in the United States. It starts with the colonies, and the first European woman to give birth in America (Eleanor Dare), although obviously women had been having babies in America long before Eleanor and the Roanoke colony, all t
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Katie
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading in American History courses. America's Women by Gail Collins is an extremely informative, well-edited and well-writen non-fiction work that looks like a textbook but reads like an epic adventure. And truly, what an adventure it was. In America's Women Collins writes what is more or less a social history of women in America, over the past 400 years-- from what little we know about Native American women, up to near-present time. She highlights not only landslid ...more
Melissa
Sep 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a pretty good sized book (450 pages) but it was a really entertaining read. As the title suggests, it is an examination of American women from the first colonists through today.

The description makes it sound like a history book, or some dry text book you have to read for a class, but it SO isn't. Collins' has a very, read-able style and peppers the book with sly observations.

The thing I liked most about this book was that it wasn't just a dry count of notable or famous women throughout
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Katie
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the book until the end. I knew it was written with a very feminist bent, and I took in the information accordingly. I was willing to do so because the history was interesting and because I wanted to read her conclusion. Here are 400 years of women, here is where we are now, and here's how we move forward as women in society. I was sorely disappointed. Her conclusion was that the huge leap for women from the 70s onward hurt the families and communities but that it was impossible not to ...more
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Gail Collins was the Editorial Page Editor of The New York Times from 2001 to January 1, 2007. She was the first woman Editorial Page Editor at the Times.

Born as Gail Gleason, Collins has a degree in journalism from Marquette University and an M.A. in government from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Beyond her work as a journalist, Collins has published several books; Scorpion Tongues: Gos
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