EINSTEIN'S WIFE: Work and Marriage in the Lives of Five Great Twentieth-Century Women by Andrea Gabor

EINSTEIN'S WIFE: Work and Marriage in the Lives of Five Great Twentieth-Century Women

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A working mother paints the portraits of five role models: women who combined extraordinary achievement with lasting marriage, to varying degrees of success. In searching for examples to help chart her own life through ""the Scylla and Charybdis of modern womanhood,"" Gabor (The Man Who Discovered Quality, 1990) finds two distinct paradigms: the driven careerist whose work is first on any list of priorities, and the fulfilled professional who also relishes the responsibilities of the home. But it is difficult to know what kind of instruction to take from these life sketches. Gabor begins with Mileva Maric, a brilliant scientist whose romance with Albert Einstein was born in shared discovery only to sour with the birth of an illegitimate child, a reluctant marriage, and a slow decline into bitter divorce. Lee Krasner, a pioneer of abstract expressionism, let her own work suffer in the service of her husband Jackson Pollock's talent and alcoholism. Maria Goeppert Mayer, a 1963 Nobelist in physics, was lucky in having a husband who was always her best collaborator, but she allowed her work to isolate her from her children. Denise Scott Brown's acclaimed urban planning projects have never won her the spotlight despite her essential contributions to the world-famous work of her mate, architect Robert Venturi. And Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seems to have done it all, raising three sons and rising through the ranks of politics and law, while always managing to have dinner ready on time. Gabor never explains how to apply the lessons of these outstanding lives to the choices faced by average working wives of the '90s, instead resorting to familiar pronouncements on the glass ceiling and the mommy track. Her thumbnail biographies feel superficial--even Scott Brown and O'Connor, who gave Gabor personal interviews, never come to life in a fresh and intimate way. An inspired idea that fails to deliver the optimistic message of progress the author promises.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1995
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Viking