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When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 14, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

You've come a long way, baby: that's Collins's conclusion about American women, who once lacked the right to publicly wear pants and now take their place on the presidential campaign trail and the battlefield. New York Times columnist Collins attempts a comprehensive account of the last 50 years of women's history in this sequel to America's Women, primarily focusing on the 1960s. Giving relatively short shrift to the current generation of young women, Collins centers the bulk of her attention on the baby boom generation (to which she belongs) and leaders like NOW founder Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, as well as dozens of ordinary struggling women. The book's stronger parts include highlighting pioneers like Congresswoman Martha Griffiths, who began her political career in the 1940s and stories of laughably shortsighted sexism against Sandra Day O'Connor. Collins captures the conundrums of feminism's success (does a see-through blouse make a woman liberated or a sex object?), but the book will probably resonate most for her generational peers. 16 pages of b&w photographs. (Oct. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Gail Collins's When Everything Changed points out what the women on "Mad Men" know: that period in our history was less enjoyable for the ladies.... The early pages of Ms. Collins's book are peppered with accounts of incidents so outrageous they almost seem like jokes....but Ms. Collins underlines the serious consequences of such risible moments by including the stories of individual women-from overworked housewives to marginalized politicians-whose lives were cramped and deformed by the culture's low opinion of their capabilities.... Ms. Collins reminds us of how many aspects of our lives were affected by the battles these women fought. And even readers who lived through this era may be surprised to discover how much they never knew, or have forgotten...Among the impressive features of Ms. Collins's book is her genial, fair-minded sympathy, her refusal to smirk at the excesses of the most radical '70s feminists or at the stance of women, among them Phyllis Schlafly, who counseled their sisters to stay home where they belonged. This evenhandedness seems all the more admirable later in the book, when she considers the significance of Hillary Rodham Clinton's and Sarah Palin's roles in the 2008 presidential election." (New York Times Francine Prose )

"Did feminism fail? Gail Collins's smart, thorough, often droll and extremely readable account of women's recent history in America not only answers this question brilliantly, but also poses new ones about the past and the present. . . . Collins . . .begins When Everything Changed with the best summary of American women's social and political history that I've read. . . .One of the many pleasures {here} is that Collins also reminds us of what women did in private." (The New York Times Book Review Amy Bloom )

"What better time to look at American women's progress since the '60s, now that the dust has settled on the 2008 presidential election when so much was won (and lost) by women?... Gail Collins's near epic history When Everything Changed...also captures the playfulness and humor in women's advancement." (The Christian Science Monitor Elizabeth Toohey )

"'The past is a foreign country' is the kind of hallowed quotation that's resolutely opaque until you stumble on something that drives home its emotional truth. The uncanny feeling it references is that one that recurs frequently as you read When Everything Changed, the absorbing history of feminism and American women's lives by Gail Collins, the resident editorial fount of wry Midwestern common sense at The New York Times.... What Collins does, which so pitiably few pop-history writers do, is bring the stories, the anecdotes that come to life and pull you in." (Elle Ben Dickinson )

"This is not only a fascinating record of how far women have come, it is also a missive to a new generation of women, reminding them to keep the faith." (Booklist Katherine Boyle )

"Fascinating...This story of how ideas that were once the norm began to seem unfair and then absurd is what Gail Collins tells in her lively new book. Until now, the second wave women's movement hasn't had its big ambitious history-the equivalent to Taylor Branch's multivolume narrative of the civil rights movement. There have been brilliant memoirs and revealing biographies and scholarly books that took slices of the movement and put them under a magnifying glass, but nothing as sweeping and accessible as this." (Slate.com's "Double X" Margaret Talbot )

"A lively account...Collins uses her great sense of revealing anecdote, engaging personalities, representative case histories, resonant stories, and startling details to defamiliarize a decade we thought we remembered, and to show how truly far American women have come in every aspect of their lives.... Collins's message is inspiring and timely, and all the techniques she employs to make this book fun to read--and impossible to deny--deserve critical praise as well as popular success." (Progressive Book Club Elaine Showalter )

"Provides a sweeping, fascinating look at modern women in our country.... It may be a history book, but When Everything Changed reads like a page-turning saga, a race through the years to learn how we got here." (BookPage.com Eliza Borné )

"I should mention that Collins is at the top of my guest list for my imaginary dinner party, the theme of which would be: 'Famous fun people I'd like to meet and talk with, but probably never will'...Readers will appreciate the exceptional detail with which Collins lays out the accepted universe of closed opportunities and limited horizons that women faced in 1960. Collins interviewed a variety of women from around the country, and it is fascinating to hear them describe a world that seems unthinkable now but which few could imagine challenging at the time....The stories that emerge are...deeply moving." (Boston Sunday Globe Sharon Ullman )

"Splendid...Collins is a masterful storyteller." (NPR.com Glenn C. Altschuler )

"Social history at its best, an engaging and accessible collection of facts fleshed out with cameo appearances by and capsule biographies of people who played a role in transforming the lives of American women." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette MiChelle Jones )

"In her pithy, wide-ranging and readable new book, Gail Collins whisks us through nearly five decades of women's history... Famous names and familiar stories appear, but what is most compelling are the vignettes of women who would have remained obscure without the work of Collins and her research team. Through their stories we experience the rat-a-tat-tat of daily indignities--big and small--that built to a crescendo we now call the women's movement." (The Cleveland Plain Dealer Connie Schultz )

"New York Times columnist Collins is such a delicious writer, it's easy to forget the scope of her scholarship in this remarkable look at women's progress over the past 50 years.... Next time you're sitting by yourself, happily, in a café, thank Betty Friedan, who was kicked out of a Ritz-Carlton bar for drinking alone, wrote about it--and helped spark a revolution." (People Judith Newman )

"In a fascinating history, Gail Collins goes behind the scenes of the women's rights movement.... When Everything Changed provides a sweeping, fascinating look at modern women in our country. Filled with facts, court cases and legislation, the book is rich with personal anecdotes. Collins and her researchers interviewed more than 100 women for this history, and for many contemporary readers, their findings will be startling and sometimes heartbreaking.... The end of her book will make many readers swell with pride--it features updates on the lives of the interview subjects featured in the book, many of whom went on to break barriers for many years. The story their lives helped write--of American women from the 1960s to today--is inspiring and compelling." (BookPage Eliza Borné )

"Women aren't nostalgic for the old days. If anyone is, just watch a few episodes of "Mad Men" as an antidote, with its suffocated Mad Wife Betty Draper and its slapped-down Working Woman Peggy Olsen. If you prefer nonfiction, leaf through the early chapters of Gail Collins's history When Everything Changed to those magical yesteryears when a flight attendant was weighed, measured, and hired to be a flying geisha." (The Seattle Times Ellen Goodman )

"Readers familiar with her work will recognize her eye for ironic detail in this wry, insightful and comprehensive book...there are many wonderful, triumphal moments...Collins wants us to remember how bad things were in the 1960s, and she succeeds." (Politics Daily Jill Lawrence )

"An enormously entertaining cultural and social history...Without preaching, Collins shows the sexism that women (and men) once accepted as the norm, and she backs up her often eye-opening stories with hard facts and solid statistics.... Collins can be deadly serious and great fun to read at the same time. A revelatory book for readers of both sexes, and sure to become required reading for any American women's-studies course." (Kirkus )

"Compulsively readable....Millions lived through the material Collins covers in her new book. To those who did not, it might read a little like science fiction." (The Dallas Morning News Chris Vognar )

"Gail Collins walks you through a fascinating five decades of history that shows you just how far women have come." (LadiesHomeJournal.com )

"Riveting and remarkably thorough in its account of this tumultuous period.... Collins draws on an impressive variety of sources...and employs her engaging and accessible writing style to created a very readable history book." (The Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, New York Daily News Rasha Madkour )

"The new must-have text for modern feminists. Her simple message to our generation: We must not take our astounding journey for granted." (The Frisky.com Ami Angelwicz )

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (October 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316059544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316059541
  • ASIN: B004Q3Q44S
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #888,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Carol M. Frohlinger on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
From June Cleaver to Hillary Clinton, Gail Collins` new book, When Everything Changed, reminds us of both how much everything has changed for American women in the last 50 years and just how little. Collins writes skillfully about the "olden" days when a glamour career for a woman was to be a stewardess and when the reason most women went to college to get a "Mrs.".

As accessible as she is on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, and as wryly funny, Collins illustrates the historical facts with the stories of real women including those whose names we all know (Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama) as well as those we would probably not know unless we read her book.

What Collins does particularly well though is to highlight that there still isn't gender parity in America's workplaces or homes. She ends on a note that celebrates how far we've come with a reality check - the gender pay gap still exists, too few women serve as CEOs or sit on corporate boards and the work-life balance conundrum has yet to be resolved.

When Everything Changed is an inspiring book. If we have forgotten the sacrifices and struggles of women who blazed the trail and take the fact that they changed the world, we should be reminded. And even if we haven't, Collins shows us that we have miles to go before we sleep.
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Format: Hardcover
Revolutions with the greatest lasting impact are sometimes the quietest events of their time, a description that applies to the dazzling struggle for equality that American women waged from 1960 to the present.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra O'Connor tells of graduating from Stanford Law School and being unable to get a job in any Phoenix law firm except as a file clerk. She grew up on an Arizona ranch where her Dad expected her to handle almost every job done by men; yet, even with a Stanford law degree, she was virtually shut out of the legal profession in Arizona.

Her court nomination was heralded as a major breakthrough. Why? Why is recognition of anyone's intelligence a "breakthrough"? Collins is a gifted writer who explains why equality is so radical, yet so just and inevitable.

O'Connor's career, and that of millions of other women during the past 50 years, is a genuine "revolution" in social attitudes. It changed America and the world without a shot being fired and only a few bras burnt. Accepting women as equals in all endeavours doubles the intelligence of any society. Fifty years ago, women had the choice of career or housework. Today, women have the right to hold almost any job (except submarine crews) they want.

It's a long complex and continuing effort. After the Equal Rights Amendment was abandoned, women by the millions set out to win their rights one issue and one job at a time. Collins tells a masterful story based on personal efforts. The "revolution" was privatized; nothing could stop it. This isn't a book of dull theory, bewildered opposition, political theory or arcane legal savvy; it is the stories of hundreds of people who made Equal Rights a fact of American life and an example for the world.
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Format: Hardcover
Gail Collins has written a revealing book both for those women of a "certain age" who lived through the events she chronicles and for those who are too young to know how difficult a journey it has been. The names everyone knows are here but the real beauty of this book lies in the stories of those unheralded and brave women who, at great personal cost, stood their ground and made a difference. Collins's witty, concise, reportorial style makes for a delightful read, once past the somewhat leaden introduction.

I learned many surprising things about where we were in the decades of my early adulthood and about how we came to be where we are now, as well as how far we have to go if we do not backslide. Collins skillfully puts the progress of women into the larger picture of social history.

This book is my holiday gift of choice for all the women in my family, especially daughters and daughters-in-law. They are the ones who will continue the amazing journey, provided they heed the warnings Collins implies.
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There is something ironic in finding a link to an excerpt of this book in AARP's website. This is a book as much for my daughter as for those in my generation who lived through this entire period. Gail Collins has done a stellar job of telling the story of women's struggle for equality during these past five decades, with enough wit and anecdotes to make the narrative always lively. But I hope others will follow suit and write about stories she didn't have the space to include -- for example, about the women who flooded therapy programs, graduating with a new consciousness which was passed to their primarily female clients; about the women whose novels and criticism changed a generation's mind (e.g., THE WOMEN'S ROOM, WRITING A WOMAN'S LIFE, BELOVED, THE WOMAN WARRIOR, et al); the women who bankrolled the movement at critical moments, such as Peg Yorkin, Joan Palevsky, and Barbara Dobkin, among others and those that changed the landscape using the resources of major institutions like the Ford Foundation); the women whose efforts on campuses transformed undergraduate and graduate learning, including curriculum, pedagogy, and the canon; the women who fought for and gained some equality in the major religions; the women, like Judy Chicago, whose The Dinner Party opened the door to looking at herstory from a new artistic perspective. So my only quibble with the book is that it did not include as much social, intellectual, literary, and artistic history as I may have wished. However, its political history is superb. I hope Ms. Collins or others will follow suit and write a companion volume.
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