Mad Men? Mad Women! Looking Back at The Feminine Mystique

February 25, 2011 at 11:36 am , by

I got together with my friend Stephanie Coontz the other day to talk about her new book, A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s (Basic Books), which has drawn rave reviews from The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and a host of other publications. Stephanie is the country’s foremost expert on marriage—she wrote the 2005 bestseller Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage—as well as a frequent advisor to Ladies’ Home Journal.

The new book has an unusual premise: It’s a biography not of Betty Friedan, but of Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the blockbuster work that forever changed the lives of American women—and men. (Fun fact: LHJ carried an excerpt from The Feminine Mystique in its January 1963 issue, a month before the book’s publication. Surprising? Not really. After all, LHJ has been charting the passions and pastimes of American women for 128 years now. As Stephanie put it, “The story of LHJ is the story of American women.”)

A fascinating examination of Friedan’s much-misunderstood classic, A Strange Stirring should be required reading for any young woman today who believes that she’s “not a feminist.” Not only does Stephanie movingly recount how revelatory The Feminine Mystique was to the millions of discontented housewives who read it, but she also details—with examples that had me shaking my head in stupefaction—the unbridled sexism that characterized life circa 1963. Over coffee, Stephanie recapped a few of the more egregious customs from those “bad old days”:

—Only eight states gave a wife any legal claim to her husband’s earnings or property. In the other 42, a wife’s only right was to be “properly supported.” One Kansas woman married to a successful farmer thought that “proper support” should include running water in her kitchen, since all the farm’s work spaces had it. She sued her husband (not for divorce, but for running water) and he fought her all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court, which agreed with him that “proper support” did not cover this amenity.

—Most states had “head and master” laws that gave husbands the right to make all final household decisions.

—The law did not recognize that a woman could be raped by her husband (South Dakota was the first state to make spousal rape a crime, in 1975) and domestic violence laws, where they existed, were seldom enforced. Read more

Women Still Don’t Know About Heart Disease

February 10, 2010 at 1:30 pm , by


Last week, Julie and I went to a Go Red for Women dinner, part of the American Heart Association’s campaign to increase knowledge for women’s heart disease. Besides catching up with AHA president, the wonderful Clyde Yancy, M.D., we got to hear some shocking heart stats.

The AHA revealed the findings from its newest study about women’s awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD), headed by Lori Mosca, M.D., Ph.D., the lively, marathon-running professor of medicine and director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

A quick summary:

1. Awareness that CVD is the leading cause of death among women has almost doubled since 1997. Still, only 54 percent of women know that CVD is the leading cause of death among women (vs. 30 percent in 1997).

2. Only about half of women know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Plus, only half of women would call 911 if they thought they were having one.

3. More than half of women rely on unproven therapies to prevent CVD, including taking a multivitamin (69 percent), antioxidants (70 percent) and aromatherapy (29 percent).

That’s us with Dr. Yancy –>


Let’s Raise $150K For Join My Village!

December 7, 2009 at 1:09 pm , by

2Have you joined a village yet to help fight poverty and empower women in Malawi? If you did join, have you gone back to check on your village’s progress? When we first blogged about Join My Village, the program was brand-new. Now the effort has raised more than $94,000 (which is amazing!) but we have the potential to unlock up to $56,000 more! That means we all need to remember to log in and interact to help our village teams get the money they need. You could raise $5 per day just by answering quiz questions and sending the link to friends. It’s such an easy way to do a lot of good with a little effort—and that money will go a long way in Malawi! Check it out now and join (or participate) to truly make a difference.

Passionate Ladies: Terri Haskins

October 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm , by

terrihaskinsWho says you can’t pursue your dream job in this bad economy?

Terri Haskins realized hers when she reinvented her 17-year career as an entertainment marketing executive and started her own interior design company, Presentations Elements of Design. She left her former life in the music biz, having worked with  performers in Hip-Hop, like Mary J. Blige and Will Smith, and enrolled back into college after 23 years to earn an associates’ degree in interior design.

A bold move in this recession? Yes. Worth the risk? Absolutely. ”Work has definitely slowed down because this is a luxury-based business,” says Haskins. “But that just motivates me to be more aggressive and proactive in gaining new clientele.”

And don’t think for a second that being your own boss makes it any easier. The hours are longer and tougher, and every move you make has to be weighed out by both sides of your brain. But the real reward is the finished product, a design drawn and drafted from your own ideas. “That’s a dream come true for me,” says Haskins.

Read more

Ladies We Love: Gail Collins

October 28, 2009 at 11:13 am , by

Gail CollinsFifty years ago, many women were expected to follow the typical career path of either teacher, nurse, or secretary. Today, we can say that a woman was a serious contender for the American presidency. What happened over such a short period of time to cause so much change? Gail Collins tells us in her new book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. Covering everything from politics to pop culture, Gail walks you through a fascinating five decades of history that shows just how far women have come.

What we love about Gail is that she’s set some milestones of her own: in 2001 she became the first female editorial page director for The New York Times, where she is now an op-ed columnist.

What makes me a lady: Knowing everybody around me feels comfortable.

Favorite guilty pleasure: Watching old reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Three things on my life list: 1. Learn to speak Spanish 2. Write a novel 3. Buy a really, really expensive pair of shoes

When Everything Changed jacketIf I could have a superpower, it would be:
I guess flying, but actually I’d be satisfied with one of those StarTreky transporters—anything that would get me from one place to another without going through an airport!

Ladies I admire: Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani woman who was gang raped and instead of responding by committing suicide, in the tradition of her rural village, went to court and prosecuted her assailants, creating an international incident and, eventually, a school and refuge for other women in need of aid. On the more local front, Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider, the recent Nobel prize winners for medicine, Gloria Steinem, and my mother, Rita Gleason.