DIVIDED LIVES by Rosalind Rosenberg

DIVIDED LIVES

American Women in the Twentieth Century
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A solid and well-written, if analytically unexceptional, overview of the complex experience of modern American women. Attempting to unify conflicting theoretical approaches to woman's experience, Rosenberg (History/Barnard) traces the origins and interactions of conceptual schemes (which stress, variously, the essential sameness of men and women, women's uniqueness, and the importance of race and class) against the larger context of social, political, and economic change. She identifies a central dilemma of 20-century American women--that of ``divided lives- -divided between domestic and paid labor, and divided from one another''--and charts its manifestations through a straightforward, chronological narrative. Skillfully interweaving a wealth of secondary sources, including autobiography, scholarly studies, and statistical data, the author moves from the world of Progressive Era reformers through the WW II mobilization of ``womanpower,'' the cold war return to domesticity, the activism of the 1960's, and on to today's fundamentally different but still evolving landscape. Unfortunately, this framework undermines the text's analytical potential by diffusing recurrent themes (e.g., an emphasis on the shared experience of motherhood, or the comparable-vs.-equal-work debate) instead of exploring them systematically. The book's largely admirable inclusiveness also gives it a certain superficiality, as in the frustratingly brief sketches of such notables as ERA-stalwart Alice Paul and legal scholar Pauli Murray. These deficiencies blunt the impact of Rosenberg's otherwise provocative conclusion that ``women are changing more quickly than men'' and that ``until men catch up, inequality will persist and tensions continue.'' A sturdy jumping-off point that should leave interested readers poised to plunge into deeper, more challenging works.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-8090-9784-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992




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