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Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics

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Forty years ago, at the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977, two women's movements drew a line in the sand between liberals and conservatives. The legacy of that rift is still evident today in American politics and social policies. Although much has been written about the role that social issues have played in politics, little attention has been given to the hist Forty years ago, at the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977, two women's movements drew a line in the sand between liberals and conservatives. The legacy of that rift is still evident today in American politics and social policies. Although much has been written about the role that social issues have played in politics, little attention has been given to the historical impact of women activists on both sides. DIVIDED WE STAND reveals how the battle between feminists and their conservative challengers divided the nation as Democrats continued to support women's rights and Republicans cast themselves as the party of family values. The women's rights movement and the conservative women's movement have irrevocably affected the course of modern American history. We cannot fully understand the present without appreciating the events leading up to Houston and thereafter.


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Forty years ago, at the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977, two women's movements drew a line in the sand between liberals and conservatives. The legacy of that rift is still evident today in American politics and social policies. Although much has been written about the role that social issues have played in politics, little attention has been given to the hist Forty years ago, at the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977, two women's movements drew a line in the sand between liberals and conservatives. The legacy of that rift is still evident today in American politics and social policies. Although much has been written about the role that social issues have played in politics, little attention has been given to the historical impact of women activists on both sides. DIVIDED WE STAND reveals how the battle between feminists and their conservative challengers divided the nation as Democrats continued to support women's rights and Republicans cast themselves as the party of family values. The women's rights movement and the conservative women's movement have irrevocably affected the course of modern American history. We cannot fully understand the present without appreciating the events leading up to Houston and thereafter.

30 review for Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Misty

    This is a huge contribution to the history of second-wave feminism in the United States, and an absolute must-read for anyone interested in that topic. Spruill begins with the dramatic assessment that the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas, in 1977 was a watershed moment in the advance of women's rights in the United States, and she spends the bulk of the book in a detailed inquiry of what led up to the conference and what happened there, with the last segments devoted to a summation This is a huge contribution to the history of second-wave feminism in the United States, and an absolute must-read for anyone interested in that topic. Spruill begins with the dramatic assessment that the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas, in 1977 was a watershed moment in the advance of women's rights in the United States, and she spends the bulk of the book in a detailed inquiry of what led up to the conference and what happened there, with the last segments devoted to a summation of what has happened for women's rights in this country between then and now. It takes some persuading to the see the NWC as a fundamental accomplishment, especially since Spruill, both times she talks about it--in the introductory chapter, and then in the middle chapters exploring the Houston event--spends at least as much time discussing the anti-feminist, anti-ERA rally taking place alongside, an event that seems to have been louder, better-attended, and even more self-congratulatory. For those curious about what the Women's Marches following President Trump's inauguration accomplished, this book is a good reminder that protests galvanize, provide solidarity, and develop loyalty among a group. It is also testament to the fact that, when you have two equally heated opinions that are dead-set against one another, nothing gets done beyond a lot of screaming, insult-launching, and exaggerated hyperbole. This is best seen in the chapters devoted to the state conferences preceding the NWC, whose job it was to elect delegates to the national convention and determine a platform to submit. Here there is a tragic arc to the narrative. When legislative and popular support for the ERA in particular and the idea of women's rights in general was high in the initial stages, the conventions did what they were supposed to do: elect a diverse set of delegates and develop a platform that reflected a progressive agenda of full civil rights, reproductive rights, and non-discrimination policies for the national platform that would eventually be submitted to the president. Once the anti-ERA forces get into the action--the phalanx of those who passionately believed that the traditional family structure, with the woman at home dependent on the husband, was the only right model for everyone--the book becomes a wearying account of how, state by state, busloads of smug white evangelical women and their husbands descended on conventions, disrupted any fruitful discussion, congratulated themselves for being family champions, and then went back to their safe, white houses, having made sure that any discussions that might have helped women who did not have their beliefs or advantages were effectively shut down. Spruill doesn't shy away from how the anti-forces deployed all sorts of others groups, including the KKK, to bulk out their protest numbers (an association Schafly always denied). In short, these chapters pound home the point learned from watching the U.S. Congress in action for the last six of the Obama years: those who make every effort to obstruct an agenda that might mean more social justice for the broader population can usually manage to succeed, whether or not their cause is just or even beneficial for the majority. But the book also doesn't shy away from showing the divisions within the feminist ranks--the arguments over how far to embrace LGBT rights, for example, and how to handle the abortion question--that led to factions and fissures there as well. What's overlooked is what the moderate middle may have wanted, as any attempt to reach that population fell apart early on--a reason that feminism has not been embraced by and is still poorly understood by the mainstream. Spruill's research is excellent and her prose, for the most part, is up to the task of handling the many threads of her narrative. There are some places where her overviews descend into roll calls of who was at a certain meeting or who supported a certain piece of legislation; there are other places where the narrative seems to switch back and forth in time, and one goes over ground that already feels covered. These are small drawbacks to what otherwise is a sharp, smart, very well-organized assessment of just what the feminists were fighting for, and what their opponents were fighting against. She is fair to both sides, quotes scrupulously and at length from her primary research, and also managed to interview many of the major figures on their involvement. The major women on the scene emerge as courageous, charismatic, dedicated, impressive people, among them Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan (all pro-ERA), and Phyllis Schafly (anti). The story of how Schafly nearly single-handedly organized the resistance and halted such an enormously important piece of legislation as equal rights for all genders is awesome and--if you happen to be on the side of equal rights for women--a completely demoralizing example of how the shrill misuse of information and incitement of fear can stop any real dialogue and any positive change from happening (something we continue to see happening in the discussion on women's rights up to this day). In this way, Spruill's history is a revealing and explanatory account of just how the divisions between the progressives and the conservatives got so deep and the rhetoric got so heated to the point that there seems no middle ground remaining. After the last chapters, which are a fast summary of how rights for women have swung back and forth depending on whether the administration was led by a Republican or a Democrat, it's hard to see a way forward, and Spruill doesn't really devote herself to solutions. However, she's laid a careful, solid, even foundation for future investigations of feminist history and women's rights in the US. Let's hope she's also laid the ground for an intelligent discussion of solutions and, perhaps, even without an ERA, a national acceptance of the belief that women are in fact equal to full human, constitutional, civil rights and equal treatment under the law. I hope I live to see that day.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I am watching Mrs. America (the TV show) and I wanted to know the real history and this is the book. It's a very good history and also just completely depressing. In the book about suffrage (The 19th), some of the opponents of female suffrage said that if women get the vote, they will become a powerful voting bloc and would vote for female rights. Ha! They did not know that we can be our own worst enemies.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Clare Smith

    As another reviewer said "interesting and tedious at the same time ". Excellent subject matter and I was really keen to explore the forces behind the scene so to speak. But honestly who needs or wants to read so many names, dates and acronyms. Maybe as a purely research based volume but for general consumption I had to push on through like the most dedicated of women who pushed on to achieve their goals. I was exhausted by the effort so god knows how they kept going. The book did give this non A As another reviewer said "interesting and tedious at the same time ". Excellent subject matter and I was really keen to explore the forces behind the scene so to speak. But honestly who needs or wants to read so many names, dates and acronyms. Maybe as a purely research based volume but for general consumption I had to push on through like the most dedicated of women who pushed on to achieve their goals. I was exhausted by the effort so god knows how they kept going. The book did give this non American reader another insight into the almost unfathomable election of Trump. I am however very perplexed that this issue of gender and fear of feminism is so relevant in today's society in America. Honestly here in NZ it feels like a done deal and has done for a couple of decades. Sure we still have ingrained issues around pay equity for example but when it comes to the general regard that women are held in, we are equal. Issues such as abortion, contraception, parental leave are supported in the mainstream. The only big difference I can put it down to from the outside looking in is religion. Over my lifetime I have seen the interest in religion dwindle from normal to rare amongst New Zealanders. Who knows why, but it is scary to think that the US, a country so advanced, with so much global influence, that even today equality issues still prevail. Looking forward to the day when equality is an inherent norm.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    3.5 stars. I have mixed feelings about this meticulously researched book. It is exhaustive; in fact, I can't imagine the author could have left anything out. It's not my cup of tea, style-wise; it managed to be interesting and tedious, often at the same time. It covers mostly the period between 1972-1980. The final chapter gives a broad overview of the last 30+ years and comes off more partisan, but by then I was so glad to be almost done that I couldn't be bothered to care. I did think it was w 3.5 stars. I have mixed feelings about this meticulously researched book. It is exhaustive; in fact, I can't imagine the author could have left anything out. It's not my cup of tea, style-wise; it managed to be interesting and tedious, often at the same time. It covers mostly the period between 1972-1980. The final chapter gives a broad overview of the last 30+ years and comes off more partisan, but by then I was so glad to be almost done that I couldn't be bothered to care. I did think it was worth reading, as it explains how the ERA-era (ha, see what I did there) women's movement spurred the culture wars that changed both major political parties and led to the current polarization. Lessons learned: Phyllis Schlafly was an impressive woman and also a real piece of work. Betty Friedan was a little less impressive, but equally a real piece of work.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    An impressively researched, quite insightful examination of the bitter battle between feminists and their conservative challengers, polarizing the nation as Democrats continued to support women’s rights and Republicans cast themselves as the anti-feminist party of family values, a division that remains painfully apparent to this day.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Continuing my "never Trump" reading. A fascinating book in light of the last election. Everything old is new again (or "time is a flat circle" if you will). The forces that pundits and press highlighted as new phenomena - a conservative American that felt their traditional values were threatened, a community that felt it had no voice, the supposed arrogance of liberalizing forces, the retrograde nature of the church, "fake news" and social methods of dissemination - are the exact forces that dro Continuing my "never Trump" reading. A fascinating book in light of the last election. Everything old is new again (or "time is a flat circle" if you will). The forces that pundits and press highlighted as new phenomena - a conservative American that felt their traditional values were threatened, a community that felt it had no voice, the supposed arrogance of liberalizing forces, the retrograde nature of the church, "fake news" and social methods of dissemination - are the exact forces that drove the conflict surrounding ERA and IWY 40 years ago. The hopeful take is we came out of that sorta ok. The depressing take is that we're still dealing with pussy-grabbing and a largely male bureaucracy that feels compelled to regulate women's bodies.

  7. 4 out of 5

    K

    Very interesting dissection of feminism, but just too much detail and the narrative didn't move quickly enough for me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shellee Diggs

    This book was a bit dry, but shouldn't be read with expectations to entertain. It is a thorough account of the ERA movement of the late 60's to early 80's. It was fascinating to learn about the tactics used by those women on both sides of the issue. You may not know, but in the 60's and 70's some women were against ERA. Phyllis Schafley - love her or hate her, she was a genius. She set out to 'STOP ERA' and she did. While I don't agree with her stance, I am impressed with her tactics.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Exponent II

    To listen to the podcast and book review for this book, please go to the Exponent blog: http://www.the-exponent.com/the-rise-... To listen to the podcast and book review for this book, please go to the Exponent blog: http://www.the-exponent.com/the-rise-...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Lancaster

    POLITICS/SOCIAL SCIENCES Marjorie J. Spruill Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics Bloomsbury USA Hardcover, 978-1-6328-6314-6, (also available as an e-book and on Audible), 448 pgs., $33.00 February 28, 2017 “Human rights apply equally to Soviet dissidents, Chilean peasants and American women.” —Barbara Jordan Gloria Steinem refers to the National Women’s Conference, held November 18-21, 1977, in Houston, Texas, as “the most important ev POLITICS/SOCIAL SCIENCES Marjorie J. Spruill Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics Bloomsbury USA Hardcover, 978-1-6328-6314-6, (also available as an e-book and on Audible), 448 pgs., $33.00 February 28, 2017 “Human rights apply equally to Soviet dissidents, Chilean peasants and American women.” —Barbara Jordan Gloria Steinem refers to the National Women’s Conference, held November 18-21, 1977, in Houston, Texas, as “the most important event nobody knows about.” Twenty thousand women attended the conference. These delegates were Democrats and Republicans, ranging from students to housewives to the presidents of national groups such as the League of Women Voters, the National Federation of Business and Professional Women, and the National Organization for Women. The star-studded cast included Bella Abzug, Margaret Mead, Betty Friedan, Texas’s Barbara Jordan, Maya Angelou, Jean Stapleton (aka Edith Bunker of All in the Family), Coretta Scott King, and three first ladies of the United States. With a remarkable degree of unity, a National Plan of Action titled The Spirit of Houston was adopted at the conference and presented to President Jimmy Carter. This plan included recommendations on education and employment discrimination, equal access to credit, extending social security benefits to homemakers, aid to elderly and disabled women, prevention of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, and greater participation for women in foreign policy, among other issues. “Solidarity among feminists was not the same as solidarity among American women,” Spruill notes. As the conference began, across town fifteen to twenty thousand people converged on the Astro Arena for a Pro-Life, Pro-Family Rally, headed by Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly was the leader of Stop-ERA (Stop Taking Our Privileges), and she created the right-wing Eagle Forum to “combat women’s lib,” which they were convinced was a Communist plot to knock American women, “beneficiaries of a tradition of special respect for women which dates back from the Christian Age of Chivalry,” off the mythical pedestal. Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics is Professor Marjorie J. Spruill’s account of the events leading to the National Women’s Conference, the disappointing results, and the rise of social conservatives. “There were two women’s movements in the 1970s: a women’s rights movement that enjoyed tremendous success,” Spruill writes, “and a conservative women’s movement that formed in opposition.… Each played an essential role in the making of modern American political culture.” Spruill draws a direct line between these two movements and the rigidly divided electorate of today. Spruill provides a concise history of second-wave feminism and the rise of social conservatives, as well as a detailed account of the historic gains of feminism in the 1970s. Heavily footnoted, the narrative bogs down intermittently in names and acronyms, but Divided We Stand isn’t a strenuously academic work, and is quite readable for a general audience. Divided We Stand is filled with countless priceless details of the times. Airline executives defending before Congress their policy of “measurement” checks for stewardesses claimed the checks were “essential to their business.” Representative Martha Griffiths asked, “What are you running, an airline or a whorehouse?” Checkmate. Spruill’s epilogue does a superb job of wrapping up events since Ronald Reagan took office, including the 2016 election, which is a tall order. An important contribution to a time and a subject that should be better known, the story told in Divided We Stand retains its relevance, and indeed has renewed urgency. Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Marjorie Spruill's detailed and riveting (especially if you're a politico) "Divided We Stand" uses the National Women's Conference in 1977 as a lens through which to explore liberal feminism and the rise of conservative "family values" politics and the key role that social issues have played in US politics. Women saw major political gains in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. But by the next decade, the picture looked quite different: the full bloom of a conservative (sometimes female- Marjorie Spruill's detailed and riveting (especially if you're a politico) "Divided We Stand" uses the National Women's Conference in 1977 as a lens through which to explore liberal feminism and the rise of conservative "family values" politics and the key role that social issues have played in US politics. Women saw major political gains in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. But by the next decade, the picture looked quite different: the full bloom of a conservative (sometimes female-led) conservative backlash. How did these gains happen? And how was the ground laid for this major shift to come? Her book tracks the growing political power of liberal feminists in the 1970s--in terms of institution building, lobbying, and party politicking--as well as the tensions within the movement (such as over LGBT rights). And this moment of time also marked the rise of a conservative backlash, perhaps best personified by Phyllis Sclafly, a strident anti-communist and national security hawk who became the face of the movement against the Equal Rights Amendment. The NWC spurred organizing on both sides---feminists, seeking to build consensus around a progressive platform (and to turn it into policy), and newly galvanized conservative women (often with connections to conservative churches, e.g., LDS), seeking to block it and grow a countermovement (in the form of a conference in the same city and much more beyond that--and before). "Divided We Stand" is particularly interesting in how it documents the evolution of the Republican Party and how social conservatives succeeded in wresting full control over it. And it also shows the conflicted relationship that feminists have often had with the Democratic Party--a source both of great hope and disappointing compromise. Spruill would have been writing her book during the 2016 election--and what a time to be writing this. One can imagine the book would feel quite different if Hillary Clinton had won last year. Last year's election showed that gender still remains a source of heated conflict in US politics. The victory of Donald Trump, a crass serial sexual harasser who claims to support "family values" he's never embodied, over Hillary Clinton, the first major party female presidential nominee, feels like a final victory for Phyllis Schlafly and her foot soldiers, but a victory that shows the inherent tensions in their political project (not to mention the unsavory characters with whom it was often quite willing to ally with). But the victory might be (hopefully will be) short-lived. To look at public opinion polls, the feminists at the NWC have undoubtedly won. And much progress has been made over the past 40 years (although there is still much to do). My main quibbles with the book were over some of the interpretations of the past 25 years of politics in the last section (I found some of it to be a little too rosy). But the heart of the book was well-researched and well-written.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Reza Amiri Praramadhan

    First of all, I would like to say that I’m satisfied that the effort by women to achieve gender equality was defeated by women themselves, especially in a country as developed as America. In 1970’s feminists seemed to be winning by putting themselves on the verge of passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). However, it is up to Phyllis Schlafly and her conservative coalition to stop the feminist onslaught, with series of battles which culminated in the International Women’s Conference. While the First of all, I would like to say that I’m satisfied that the effort by women to achieve gender equality was defeated by women themselves, especially in a country as developed as America. In 1970’s feminists seemed to be winning by putting themselves on the verge of passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). However, it is up to Phyllis Schlafly and her conservative coalition to stop the feminist onslaught, with series of battles which culminated in the International Women’s Conference. While the feminist were able to diverse their movement by including the LGBT and minority right issues, the Conservatives, especially the religious rights, emerged as one of the most potent political forces in America (Jimmy Carter got the wrong end of the stick). After the Reagan’s presidency, their power seemed to be on the decline, especially with the election of Barrack Obama. However, with Trump victory, the war seemed to be continued. As a man generally uninterested in gender politics and mostly hostile towards feminism, the failure of ERA is one of few things I am interested in knowing more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    "Looking back over the history off the American women's movement - including the battle for political equality - provides many lessons, one of which is that progress is not linear, but continues as long as women remain determined to bring about change." This is a dense book but important read on the history of women's movements in the US. This book highlights big challenges that both conservative and liberal women faced in rallying votes and being recognized in the two-party system. I learned a nu "Looking back over the history off the American women's movement - including the battle for political equality - provides many lessons, one of which is that progress is not linear, but continues as long as women remain determined to bring about change." This is a dense book but important read on the history of women's movements in the US. This book highlights big challenges that both conservative and liberal women faced in rallying votes and being recognized in the two-party system. I learned a number of things from this book which is nice because so many books that examine movements with women rehash the same facts. While this book touches a bit on how the women's movement also overlapped with movements in the LGBTQ community and the civil rights movement, it didn't talk as much about their roles in the women's movement (and how they were discouraged from being involved by both sides of the aisle) as I would have liked. I also didn't realize how politically active the Mormon church was or how some presidents had talked about appointing women in high-level public service positions but never followed through. This book provides some great context for women's movements and how each side had developed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan Lynch

    3.5! To borrow a phrase from one of my goodreads' friends, Spruill's book is slow and prodding, but thoughtful. As a fan of women's rights literature, I enjoyed this book. But even with strong interest, I had to push my way through it. Many names, many acronyms, many dates. I found myself losing my place and needing to push the refresh button. Still, this may be more my flaw as a reader than Spruill's as a writer. I learned much from Divided We Stand and would recommend it for anyone interested 3.5! To borrow a phrase from one of my goodreads' friends, Spruill's book is slow and prodding, but thoughtful. As a fan of women's rights literature, I enjoyed this book. But even with strong interest, I had to push my way through it. Many names, many acronyms, many dates. I found myself losing my place and needing to push the refresh button. Still, this may be more my flaw as a reader than Spruill's as a writer. I learned much from Divided We Stand and would recommend it for anyone interested in women's rights or the polarization of our country. Spruill's work is well researched and her observations, incisive. Just have coffee on hand.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cherie Cawdron

    I found this book very intense and heavy on detail, which meant that I found myself skipping the odd paragraph here and there. However, I learnt a lot about how women's rights/family values have played out in American politics, which was the reason I read the book. Perhaps a national of the US would recognise more of the names and organisations discussed, as an overseas reader with little prior knowledge it was a heavy load. If you are anticipating reading I am sure you will find it thought prov I found this book very intense and heavy on detail, which meant that I found myself skipping the odd paragraph here and there. However, I learnt a lot about how women's rights/family values have played out in American politics, which was the reason I read the book. Perhaps a national of the US would recognise more of the names and organisations discussed, as an overseas reader with little prior knowledge it was a heavy load. If you are anticipating reading I am sure you will find it thought provoking and I know for me I could identify with both camps on various topics. Nice to read recent history of women's rights.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    At first hard to get into but it was amazing to me to read about such a big event that was not part of my conscience growing up in the 70's. Always have self-identified as a feminist so also interesting to read from that standpoint. Also amazing to me that the Republican Party supported the Equal Rights Amendment prior to Reagan and Indiana, my home state, of all places voted for it prior to the Pro-family takeover of the Republican party.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lesa

    Interesting analysis of the impact of BOTH sides of the Women's movement ( conservative and liberal ) that have shaped today's political environment -- with the Houston conferences as a centerpoint. I found the book extremely interesting and insightful , it is a textbook on this period in time. Absolutely recommend if you are trying to understand the history that has lead to today's political environment.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    This book is super useful in answering some questions about 2016 and the existential “how did we get here?” nausea. This is well-written and a good read for those who aren’t even studying women’s history. This tells a great story that sheds light on some issues that are still very relevant today.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Teri L.

    Loved what I learned about history from this book. Four rather than five stars only because it was really slow in the middle - too much detail about various meetings, votes, internal state politics. But a fascinating story of the impact on the course of US politics of both the feminists and conservative women. And many of these women are barely noted by other authors!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dave Fransen

    Great! SO MUCH information, but it was interesting from beginning to end. Learned a ton about the makeup of second-wave feminism and the struggle for - and against - the ERA. This book stretches from the 60s through the 2016 election (barf). I found it really pathetic how very, very little of it is taught in school. Seems the story of 51% of the population deserves better. Loved it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    There is so much information in this book that at times it is mind boggling. There is also some detailed repetition of certain events, etc. However, the information is so important and so comprehensive that I want everyone to read it!

  22. 4 out of 5

    C

    This was a VERY in depth book about the history of the women’s movement and those who opposed it. The history was rich and you could tell the author spent a long time working on this book, but on the other hand because it did go so in depth at times reading it could become a chore.

  23. 5 out of 5

    bethany

    School Reading I probably would have enjoyed this book had I not had to read the entire thing in one week. I plan to pick it up again at a later date to read leisurely.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    Too much of a chronology. I had to stop reading. Very disappointing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve Kemp

    Every American should read this book ! Fabulous ! Won my copy from Goodreads giveaway .

  26. 4 out of 5

    S.

    This is one of those history books that remind me why I prefer biographies and historic fiction. This book has a lot of name dropping--people names, conferences, organizations, and bills/laws. I didn't anticipate that the author would be writing primarily about white liberal feminists and conservatives... and barely mention radical/ intersectional feminists. But she's describing the 1970s government's tolerance and even involvement in feminism, which is amazing. She does an excellent job of showi This is one of those history books that remind me why I prefer biographies and historic fiction. This book has a lot of name dropping--people names, conferences, organizations, and bills/laws. I didn't anticipate that the author would be writing primarily about white liberal feminists and conservatives... and barely mention radical/ intersectional feminists. But she's describing the 1970s government's tolerance and even involvement in feminism, which is amazing. She does an excellent job of showing how we came to where this country politically is today. The author writes in an unbiased manner, which is kind of disappointing, since she's being neutral about anti-feminists. Cooties. She even uses the expression "pro-life," even though it's nothing more than a manipulative way to distract us from the fact that they're not pro-life; they're just anti-women. She could simply call them "anti-abortion" instead of perpetuating the lie. She did the same with "pro-family." The book really is what the title, subtitle, and jacket copy indicate. It explains the origins of this division in the U. S. between feminists and...hmm, I'm not coming up with a polite word. With that in mind, it's an important book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sanjida

    This is good background to the very good Hulu show Mrs. America, though it does veer at times into name-dropping lists of attendees at various events or members of various committees.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    Definitely a slow starter with a stream of characters and acronymed organisations bogging down the narrative. However, the hard work setting the foundations proves worthwhile when it comes to the regional conferences and the competing events in Houston. My main takeaway was that while the gender gap favours the Democrats in terms of female voters, the (mostly white and religious) women voting with the right are not just ciphers of their male family members. Those women led the "pro family" movem Definitely a slow starter with a stream of characters and acronymed organisations bogging down the narrative. However, the hard work setting the foundations proves worthwhile when it comes to the regional conferences and the competing events in Houston. My main takeaway was that while the gender gap favours the Democrats in terms of female voters, the (mostly white and religious) women voting with the right are not just ciphers of their male family members. Those women led the "pro family" movement in the 1970s and changed the political landscape. This book was also evenhanded in its treatment of both sides. I didn't like Phyllis Schlafly and her tactics but I respected her drive.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tribe

    During the past year, I have been wondering to myself why so many of the promises of second-wave feminism remain unfulfilled. Why did feminism become such a divisive concept? Why did feminist leaders make the choice to center the women's rights discussion on reproductive issues? How did "women's rights" become reduced to "reproductive rights"? If feminist leaders had invested as much political capital in ensuring harassment-free workplaces and accessable child care as they did on reproductive is During the past year, I have been wondering to myself why so many of the promises of second-wave feminism remain unfulfilled. Why did feminism become such a divisive concept? Why did feminist leaders make the choice to center the women's rights discussion on reproductive issues? How did "women's rights" become reduced to "reproductive rights"? If feminist leaders had invested as much political capital in ensuring harassment-free workplaces and accessable child care as they did on reproductive issues, would we be better off? I picked up this book in the hopes of finding some answers. I was disappointed. While I applaud the author's meticulous research, I could have used less reportage and more analysis. I was hoping for an objective examination of the strategic choices that have contributed to our current environment. Instead, the author packed the book with overly detailed descriptions of characters and tactics. In the end, I was left with several unanswered questions, which was disheartening, given the book's page count. The book provides a thorough history of the who-what-where of second-wave feminism, but if you are looking for answers to why, choose another text.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amy Lafleur Meyers

    Marjorie Spruill chronicles the history of the feminist and anti-feminist movements. While it was bit dense, it was informative and provided a lot of context for modern-day feminism vs. those who consider themselves defenders of family values. I learned a lot about the fight for and against the ERA Amendment from it. Those who read it will get a sense of how these fights shaped and continue to influence modern day politics and activism.

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