All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation


All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation Women's Studies

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"In a provocative, groundbreaking work, National Magazine Award­-finalist Rebecca Traister, "the most brilliant voice on feminism in this country" (Anne Lamott), traces the history of unmarried women in America who, through social, political, and economic means, have radically shaped our nation. For legions of women, living single isn't news; it's life. In 2009, the award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister started All the Single Ladies--a book she thought would be a work of contemporary journalism--about the twenty-first century phenomenon of the American single woman. It was the year the proportion of American women who were married dropped below fifty percent; and the median age of first marriages, which had remained between twenty and twenty-two years old for nearly a century (1890-1980), had risen dramatically to twenty-seven. But over the course of her vast research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women, Traister discovered a startling truth: the phenomenon of the single woman in America is not a new one. And historically, when women were given options beyond early heterosexual marriage, the results were massive social change--temperance, abolition, secondary education, and more.Today, only twenty percent of Americans are wed by age twenty-nine, compared to nearly sixty percent in 1960. The Population Reference Bureau calls it a "dramatic reversal." All the Single Ladies is a remarkable portrait of contemporary American life andhow we got here, through the lens of the single American woman. Covering class, race, sexual orientation, and filled with vivid anecdotes from fascinating contemporary and historical figures, All the Single Ladies is destined to be a classic work of social history and journalism. Exhaustively researched, brilliantly balanced, and told with Traister's signature wit and insight, this book should be shelved alongside Gail Collins's When Everything Changed"--

Editorial Reviews

A feminist journalist argues that single women, who now outnumber married women in the United States, are changing society in major ways. Between 2010 and 2015, New York Magazine writer at large and Elle contributing editor Traister (Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women, 2010, etc.) interviewed nearly 100 women across the country, selecting from them some 30 whose stories she relates here. Many of them are women like herself—college-educated New Yorkers—which gives her book a definite slant. Before letting these women talk about their lives, the author turns to prominent women of earlier decades—Anita Hill, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem—and to single ones of earlier times who were abolitionists, suffragists, labor agitators, and social reformers. The present, writes Traister, "is the epoch of the single woman, made possible by the single women who preceded it." Through her interviews, she explores their friendshi ps with other women, relationships with men, sex and social lives, careers, freedoms, activism, independence, loneliness, living arrangements, and choices about children. At times, the author inserts her own story into the narrative, but she underrepresents the lives of poor women, minorities, and older widows. Although too often absent from the text, the needs of such women are recognized in an appendix that outlines changes in policies in wages, insurance, housing, welfare, and health care and in attitudes toward reproductive rights and family structures that single women must demand. If single women possess the political power that Traister attributes to this growing population ("a citizenry now made up of plenty of women living economically, professionally, sexually, and socially liberated lives"), big changes are on the way. An easy read with lots of good anecdotes, a dose of history, and some surprising statistics, but its focus on one segment of one generation of sing l e women is a drawback. Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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  • Put Your Hands Up!

    5 out of 5

    Written by , Posted on at 11:37:53 AM

    Ms. Traister interviewed close to 100 women about what it means to be single (virgin, celibate, widowed, divorced, separated, never married, etc.). Interwoven through those candid revelations are factual accounts of the historical, political, religious, sociological and martial events that shaped and defined womanhood and how single women have shaped and defined history. The book is a wonder and an eye-opening account. The strides women have made to acquire autonomy have been both detrimental and advantageous. For every battle we’ve won, there have been losses by the wayside. You’re great in the workplace and make as much money or more than a man? Be prepared to find the guys running away from you! (Still, if you’re not looking to be hitched but only want a good time, you’ll find plenty of eager takers.) But the triumphs have far outweighed the defeats. Ms. Traister posits that it’s been to the good for men and women to have female status elevated to that of men. With both men and women in the workplace, the burden for wage earner has been, if not lifted from men, then shared with women. Women can be employed and men can be the doting fathers they’ve secretly wanted to be. Win, win. The warnings from conservatives that giving women the vote, equal pay, paid maternity leave as well as the ability to have babies with IVF would prove disastrous for mankind in general are spread within these pages as well. Ms. Traister avoids the trap of making these people seem like villainous tyrants; you understand why they fear change. Of course, matters will change for those in power if the underclass is allowed access to all the goodies they wish to keep for themselves. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Ms. Traister doesn’t give us definitive answers but it’s clear from her writing that the prognostication is one of hope for all of us. This book was never dull, tedious or too heavy. It stemmed, after all, from conversations with real women and that human element meant that it was a pleasure to read from beginning to…well, not the end. We single ladies have made significant goals but there’s always more to do, more to accomplish, more to see. No rings on these fingers, no chains on these wrists.