From the 1960’s up to present day, women’s rights and opportunities in the United States have been undergoing a massive evolution. Author Gail Collins tracks these changes in her book, When Everything Changed. The book begins in 1960, before the women’s lib movement had even started. Back then, women couldn’t get credit cards under their own names, or buy a car or house without their husband’s permission. Flight attendants were weighed on a weekly basis and catered to the first class men’s only flights while women were relegated to coach.
Collin’s book is in-depth, but not verbose. She mixes history, politics and oral testimonies to shed light on the development of women’s opportunities in the US during the past 4 decades. Collin’s writing is lively, and sometimes chatty. The book is well paced, I never felt any section drag on for longer than necessary. She gets to the point, provides ample examples and then moves on. I learned a lot about the struggle women endured reading this book. I also learned that in 1971, Congress was all set to pass a Child Care Act that would make it easier for mother’s to go to work and find decent, affordable child care for their children. That failed. I also learned that initially, Republicans were more likely to support the women’s movement than Democrats. How those tables have changed.
As an almost 30-year-old, I grew up in the US without any stigma’s of being a women. Being a girl didn’t mean I couldn’t play sports, or aspire to go to an Ivy League School. Getting married and having kids was not pushed as my end-goal in life. I take for granted what women of older generations had to push against in order to feel like I can be and do anything I set my mind to.
I think women who lived through this era will appreciate this book for its frankness about the series of events from 1960. Women my age will appreciate what previous generations did to ensure that we have the freedoms we have now. My only regret is that mass media hasn’t really caught on to the smart, accomplished women in the workforce element of society. TV is filled with spam like the Real Housewives series, and all those reality TV shows that make women out to be petty, vindictive and superficial. It’s a shame that for all the opportunities that have been attained, the US is still somehow backsliding into relegating women as a second-class citizen, a spectacle rather than an honorable role-model.