A fascinating study of an icon and the era that created her.


Helen Andelin and the Fascinating Womanhood Movement

Neuffer offers a study of Helen Andelin, author and founder of the controversial Fascinating Womanhood movement in the 1960s and ’70s.

In 1961, discontented Mormon housewife Andelin discovered a set of advice booklets written in the 1920s. Called The Secrets of Fascinating Womanhood, they advised women to fulfill traditional gender roles in order to find happiness in love and motherhood. Andelin credited them with saving her marriage, so much so that she repackaged them as Fascinating Womanhood, a book that went on to sell 2 million copies (as Neuffer notes, Andelin never admitted to copying the booklets). Andelin and her movement became cultural phenomena of the 1960s and ’70s, a counterbalance to the second-wave feminism of Betty Friedan. Despite harsh criticism from many of her contemporaries, Andelin’s ideas would shape succeeding generations of female commentators, including Phyllis Schlafly, Laura Schlessinger, and comedian Rosanne Barr (who appropriated, albeit satirically, Andelin’s ideal of the “Domestic Goddess” for her stand-up routine). Neuffer demonstrates how “the views and goals of both Andelin and her FW movement were both more complex and more distinct than her critics conceded. Moreover, they endured. In fact, Andelin built a substantial and lasting following simply by addressing the immediate, felt needs of many women at a crucial moment in history when other reform movements did not.” Raised in the Mormon Southwest during the height of the movement—her mother was, for a time, a teacher of FW classes—Neuffer was granted unprecedented access to Andelin in the last decade of her life; in addition to Andelin’s personal papers, Neuffer’s interviews with Andelin make up the bulk of the book’s sources. While Neuffer is appropriately skeptical of Andelin’s teachings (and willing to present evidence that suggests Andelin plagiarized most of her material), she treats her subject with patience and respect as she attempts to accurately describe the deeper causes and effects of Andelin’s career. “An understanding of Andelin’s wide appeal as both a religious and political leader can augment the fast-expanding discussion about women’s strategies to cope with—and shape—political and social change,” she writes. Indeed, Andelin’s story has much to teach us about dissenting voices in the pursuit of progress.

A fascinating study of an icon and the era that created her.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60781-327-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. of Utah

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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