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The Women's Room

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  7,666 ratings  ·  584 reviews
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 piercing insight into the social norms accepted so b ...more
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
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  7,666 ratings  ·  584 reviews

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Feb 01, 2007 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.
Jun 06, 2012 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
Paul Bryant
Oct 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels

Room – an excellent movie from 2015 about a kidnapped woman

The Room – a 2003 contender for the worst film ever, a cult classic

The Room – a painfully horrible 1971 novel about an insane person by Hubert Selby Jr

A Room of One’s Own – a 1929 essay by Virginia Woolf arguing for the need for both fictional and literal space for women artists

A Room with a View – a 1908 novel by EM Forster. I haven’t read it yet

A Room with a View – a rather lovely song by Noel Coward – the intro contains t
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
Jun 18, 2009 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.
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 morning ...more
Britta Böhler
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Re-reading this book for the first time after more than three decades, I found it less 'perfect' than thirty years ago, but still, the stories of these women are so powerful and heartbreaking and anger-inducing.
Feb 08, 2012 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 anyth ...more
Megan Baxter
Jul 05, 2011 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
Sep 07, 2007 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.
Jan 05, 2008 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 sn ...more
Megan Ammer-Barefield
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
Trevor Maloney
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
"The Women's Room" is considered one of the most important novels of the feminist movement. If you are interested in the feminist movement, you might consider reading it just for that reason. However, in my view, there is good reason to read it beyond that. I would especially encourage men to read this book. Until I read "The Women's Room," I don't think I had ever read a novel that focuses so exclusively on the lives of women. This may say a lot about my reading habits, and/or my education, but ...more
Feb 18, 2011 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
Terri Lynn
Jul 07, 2011 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 pr ...more
Amy Conchie
Dec 11, 2011 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
Sep 25, 2008 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
Anita Fajita Pita
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anita by: The F-Word
It's hard for me to review this book. French manages to cover ground that hasn't been covered before: Women. Seriously, that's it. It seems so simple, right? But it isn't. The Women's Room follows Mira through life. It begins in a basement women's bathroom as Mira perches on the edge of a toilet, hiding in the stall. Hiding from what? Why? This is a heavy read, it takes time and it takes a toll. But it's worth it.

Our undisclosed narrator is both sorry for and ashamed of Mira. So our narrator tak
Barbara Irene Carter
I can´t honestly say that I enjoyed reading this book. It is a raw, confusing, description of a time that I lived through having been born in 1945. However, the themes that are part of this book are very real to me. Growing up in the 1950s, my mother didn´t work outside the home and neither did any of my friends mothers. Though it seemed the normal way of life, it was difficult for women as wives and mothers working to keep families going and not really having lives of their own. I thought that ...more
Feb 09, 2014 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
Samantha Ellis struck a chord when in How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading too Much she observed:
It might seem odd that I was reading all these books about how to put down your dishcloth and leave your husband. I didn't have a husband. It was my mother's life I was trying to leave.
Yes, I realized, that's why we were all reading The Women's Room.
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
Oct 07, 2007 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.
Ronald Wise
Aug 01, 2011 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 o ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: feminist
Having never heard of this book before, when I picked it up and started to read it I had no preconceived notions about its contents apart from what was written on the back cover. Obviously the book deals with a heavy topic, the Feminist movement and how women were (and in some cases still are) treated by society at large.

I have to say I'm not a big fan of this book. I can appreciate French's writing style but as for the content, I found it and the characters irritating, simplistic, one dimensio
Barry Pierce
There aren’t many novels that can define a decade but Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room (1977) is truly a defining book of the 1970s. Recent editions of this famed feminist novel claim that is has sold over twenty-one million copies so chances are you have this book somewhere in your house. The Women’s Room tells the story of Mira, a housewife of the 50s and 60s, who rages against societal norms by leaving the life of married ‘bliss’ and going to university midlife. The novel also follows the li ...more
Beverly Diehl
Read this closer to the original publication date, and recently revisited, for book club.

It is both interesting to see how far feminism and women's rights have come since the 1970's - and how far they have yet to come. The issues dealt with in this book - the demeaning of women as lesser, both in status and intelligence, the expectation that women can or should put aside their own dreams and aspirations for motherhood and serving a man, the tendency of police to discount the word of a rape victi
Jan 01, 2010 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
Jan 03, 2010 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
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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

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