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Faces Of Feminism by Sheila Tobias
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it was amazing
bookshelves: academic-notations, illuminating, non-fiction, politics, history, feminism

'Faces of Feminism' is one of those books which should be on everyone's bookshelf. It is a complete overview, yet brief, history of the fight of women to have the same civil rights as men legally, politically and by changed social customs.

Most Western-world women under the age of 30 live in a world today where gender is not as big of an impediment to the choices they have as it was when I was under 30. Children, no matter what sex, can dream and plan and choose to be whoever and whatever they want to be - for now. The social roadblocks of any Western society are basically the same for all citizens no matter what gender. There are a few social issues remaining which still tend to hurt women more than men, but as long as women remember or know the past, they will know why they should not permit legal backsliding or a loss of these hard-won rights.

I am in my 60's, and the world I grew up in as a child in Seattle, Washington, USA, was one where women were legally, socially and politically enslaved under the authority of men, and we were either silenced or demeaned because we were women as we grew up, forced into the only roles in which we were allowed to live our lives and earn a paycheck - housework, assistant clerk, teacher, nursing and motherhood all of our days of life.

Women did not have any rights under the Constitution, and few men fought to allow women the chance to live free of a man's control. Men (and many women) hid their fear of women living with the same civil and social rights and responsibilities under the philosophy of 'special protection'. Of course, such 'special protection' placed women in the same category as that of children and animals. What this meant in practice was not a sweet paradise of financial care and loving gentleness. It meant father or brother could take their irritation about their day's events home to any women related to them and beat, starve, rape, degrade and force their family females to their sadistic, angry or impaired will and demands without neighbors or police interfering. It meant despite the social demand of attending church every Sunday, many men got drunk most nights and spent their entire paycheck on alcohol, gambling or other personal 'relaxations' while their women and children went without food, clothes, education and sometimes, without a warm bed to sleep or milk for the baby. No woman could buy a car or a house or sign any contract without a male co-signer. No woman could have a credit card. Few women were encouraged to go to college, unless it was to find a man to marry. Women were supposed to work, in a few approved servant or assistant jobs, only until pregnancy. Women earned 1/3 of men's wages doing the same job (try to pass a financial background check when you are an impoverished, if working, woman). Women were never managers. If a man and a woman worked for the same employer and they had a sexual relationship at work, even if the man blackmailed the woman into sex, the woman got fired, not the man, if discovered.

When I was 22, I had savings, a full-time job and I had rented an apartment for two years. When I wanted to buy a car, I had to bring my father to co-sign a loan for a used car of almost no value, a loan which I was able to pay off in six months.

To get jobs, I answered ads in the 'Women's' section of the newspaper. The advertised jobs were for secretaries, clerks, nurses and teachers. (If I had gone to college at that time, I had the choice of majoring in nursing or teaching or literature-related degrees.)

When I got a phone, my dad co-signed. I finally got a credit card at the Bon Marche after three years of applying. It had a limit of $150. It was the only credit card I ever had until I was married. My husband had six credit cards when I married him. I had perfect credit, btw. If I had divorced him, my credit score would have gone to zero, while his credit score would have remained at whatever level we had earned during the marriage. All of my credit card(s) had been canceled when I married, and I was issued cards with his name on them only. (When my sister-in-law tried to buy a car for herself in 1995, she was told to come back with her husband.) Banks allowed my husband complete unfettered access to my personal accounts without my permission, but I could not access his personal accounts without my name having been put on them.

I was hired by an insurance company as a group rater because I had good math skills, but I earned $400 a month or $4800 a year. My boss earned $100,000. He went to meetings and presented the proposals I had worked up and I had done the math and I had typed up. After two years of employment, during which time every woman who insisted on wearing trousers to work was fired that same day (I saw it happen to a couple of women secretaries who were called 'women's libbers' by the agents), he gave me a raise to $600 a month. I applied at the phone company, which hired me because I was a Native-American for $650 a month to start as a telephone operator (the white interviewer was very bored during my interview until he asked me what I was racially, after I answered I was half Alaskan Native, he perked up, leaving me in no doubt of why I got a job). I returned to the insurance company and gave my two-week notice. My boss's boss screamed and broke up furniture in his own office when my boss told him. My boss told me to avoid being near him for awhile. After two weeks, they offered me $625 a month. I left. When I ran into one of the insurance company's secretaries six months later, she told me they had had to shut down the insurance company's local office for three months because it turned out I had been the only rater for the 25 insurance agents, and nobody else knew how to do the math for the proposals (when I started, there had been a notebook of instructions, when I left, there were six manuals). They had tried mailing prospective company information for proposals or doing the math over the phone with the home office for two weeks, which didn't work out.

When I was in middle-school (it was called junior high), I heard I needed certain classes for college. However, I worked it out that no girl could get those college-required classes by high school graduation.

Girls had to take 3 years of cooking and 3 years of sewing, along with 2 years of science, math, etc. Because some certain particular junior-high classes counted towards high-school graduation, it was possible for boys to bump up their class schedule and go beyond the two (and four) years of everything needed for high school graduation, and instead get three years of everything that normally was a two-year requirement (what would be 'fast start' or AP classes today), plus get the two-years of a foreign language, to meet college entrance requirements. (Basically, there were sort of three high school degrees - minimum required to graduate, secretarial or car-mechanic proficiency certificate, and college-ready). There was no way for girls to get the college-required classes by the time of finishing high school. I went to the school counselor, who was a man. He told me that I would be married when I grew up, so why worry about college? After arguing and arguing, and enlisting a few female teachers on my side, I got the 'deferments' from learning to sew and cook. After my insurrection, many other girls asked for deferments....now girls can learn to sew and cook, and so can boys, while also being allowed to take college-required classes for high school graduation. I got a lot of that math at this time, of course.

I know, it's hard to believe this was how it was. But it is all true. Seattle today is so leftist and unisex and metrosexual and pro-college-elitist and rainbow equal rights and supportive of the Democratic Party. You'd never know it was a primitive lumberjack, fisherman and Navy sailor outpost where the term 'skid-row' was invented, and downtown was full of thrift stores, cheap pay-by-day hotels, nude shows, gambling establishments, taverns and brothels (the churches were further up and away from the Elliot Bay docks. Everywhere I went alone, I was propositioned at least once (and I never was gorgeous, just pretty), even as a child. Seattle had the University of Washington, but still, Seattle was a blue-collar libertarian/testosterone-loaded/masculine town 50 years ago!

But back to the book, 'The Faces of Feminism'. Ladies, the life you have today, if you live in the Western world and especially, America, is actually very new and tentative and it can be taken away with a couple of elections and a majority Republican congress. I suggest a little bit of interest in politics and history couldn't hurt you.
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Reading Progress

January 14, 2016 – Started Reading
January 14, 2016 – Shelved
January 14, 2016 –
page 4
1.14% "An absolutely terrific herstory!"
January 25, 2016 –
page 35
9.94% "I wish every woman would read this."
January 25, 2016 – Shelved as: academic-notations
January 25, 2016 – Shelved as: illuminating
January 25, 2016 – Shelved as: non-fiction
January 25, 2016 – Shelved as: politics
January 25, 2016 – Shelved as: history
January 25, 2016 – Shelved as: feminism
January 25, 2016 – Finished Reading

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