FOR HER OWN GOOD: 150 Years of the Expert's Advice to Women by Barbara & Deirdre English Ehrenreieh

FOR HER OWN GOOD: 150 Years of the Expert's Advice to Women

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Professors Ehrenreich and English, whose kitchen-table pamphlet Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers is an underground classic, branch out from healing to other important, traditionally female tasks in America that have been ""scientized"" by the ""experts."" Moving chronologically from the late 18th century when ""old-fashioned"" midwifery was ousted by ""scientific"" doctors (who sometimes lost leeches in their patients' vaginas) to the swinging, morally impoverished present, the authors chronicle the unhappy search for a solution to ""the Woman Problem."" As long as women in colonial America had real work to do (despite their officially inferior status), no woman problem existed. Only after the Industrial Revolution moved work to the marketplace did women get stuck in the ""domestic void."" Hysteria, neurasthenia, and (peripherally) the women's movement rushed to fill that space until expert ""domestic science"" taught women their duty. Soon after, scientific child-rearing experts boosted industrial (""scientific"") motherhood and libidinal ('""fulfilling"") motherhood. But then the experts turned angrily against ""Momism"" and the selfish little brats themselves, launched a dangerous ""psycho-gynecology,"" pushed drugs on women ""diseased"" with ""resisting their femininity,"" and finally came up with ""masochism"" as the main feature of the increasingly scarce ""true woman."" Enter the 1960s single working girl to catch the experts with their theories down and turn ""housewife"" into a dirty word. Now, the authors conclude, millions of women seek individual ""liberation"" of one sort or another while some defensive moms join the right-wing ""nco-romantic"" campaign against abortion and equal rights; and rational feminism, shy of radical solutions, tiptoes around the issues. This highly complex, fascinating history unfolds in meticulously documented, eminently readable prose. And it's hard to fault the rational feminist perspective that seems pure common sense. Bonus: it is often funny, as some of the milder absurdities of sexism must be.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1978
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday