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A CENTURY OF WOMEN by Sheila Rowbotham

A CENTURY OF WOMEN

The History of Women in Britain and the United States

By Sheila Rowbotham

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 1997
ISBN: 0-670-87420-5
Publisher: Viking

 An almanac of the events and personalities that have driven the changes in women's lives from 1900 to the present. Rowbotham, a sociology research fellow at the University of Manchester in England, has written previously about women's struggles (Hidden from History, 1975, etc.). Here is a decade-by- decade overview that ranges from Christabel Pankhurst's call for a women's vote in 1905 to the international women's conference in Beijing in 1995. From the beginning, the author shows, the goals of women were (and continue to be) muddled in the debate about mothering and homemaking vs. careers and independence. And comparing the progress of women in Britain and the US, she demonstrates that they were parallel but not identical. British women, in a society defined by class, fought for security and a living wage. US women, in a struggle complicated by racism, fought for equality. The debate about family values surfaced in the 1950s as independent and liberal women were viewed as communist sympathizers. In the 1960s and '70s, the women's movement gained visibility and strength, spinning off from the civil rights movement in the US and from class and economic struggles in Britain. The 1980s saw Margaret Thatcher take the spotlight as prime minister of Britain, and women begin to turn their political attention to welfare cuts and nuclear energy, while in the US under President Reagan, women struggled to keep their gains, including the right to abortion. The author sees the 1990s as a time when feminism is not a separate agenda, but bound to global as well as local economic and social policy. Short essays about such aspects of women's culture as theater and comedy lighten this densely packed history; a series of several hundred biographies and footnotes are icing for researchers. A storehouse of the known and unknown women and organizations who fought for and framed the 20th-century struggle for equal opportunity for women. (100 b&w photos, not seen)