LIVES OF OUR OWN by Caroline Bird


Secrets of Salty Old Women
Email this review


 A feminist report--both optimistic and pragmatic--for single women getting older. Early to the barricades in the women's liberation movement of the 1960s, Bird, now near 80, aims to help define what older age is like. In the book's first section, she offers vignettes of women on their own coping successfully with aging, among them Eleanor Roosevelt, who served as US representative to the United Nations after FDR died, and less famous others who sailed around the world, joined the Peace Corps, became artists and writers. In Born Female (1968), Bird called them ``loophole women,'' that is, women who slip through or around the stereotypes--in this case, the attitude that old women (over 50, in some definitions) are ugly, weak, sick, slow, and unpleasant, a view that renders them invisible in the marketplace and the workplace. But today's generation of older women, as well as constituting a large percentage of the population, are also veterans of the battle for equality in the workplace; they will not settle for being denied control or herded into nursing homes and age-segregated communities in the final quarter-century of their lives. In her closing chapters, Bird offers some specific suggestions on improving the social climate: better public transportation; mainstreaming the elderly in schools, jobs, and on television; and reducing the privileges of age by, for instance, taxing Social Security income. She also presents some very personal ideas for keeping life manageable as joints and short-term memory deteriorate: exercise, the use of computers, and hanging up on telemarketers. The book's principle fault: Bird's occasionally over-rosy view of her sex (``Women give [to charity] to help others, not themselves'')--uplifting, but questionable. Good-humored and straight to the point; a challenge to stereotypes and a call to action. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-395-65234-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995