Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics Hardcover – February 28, 2017
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"Spruill…convincingly traces today’s schisms to events surrounding the National Women's Conference, a four-day gathering in Houston in November 1977. These divergent narratives from 40 years ago offer many lessons to those hoping to maintain the momentum of the Jan. 21 women's marches." - New York Times Book Review
"Marjorie Spruill describes a polarized America that will be recognizable to any consumer of today’s news…A story crucial to understanding American politics over the past 40 years…The question raised by the battle of 1977--who speaks for women?--still bedevils American politics." - Wall Street Journal
"This timely history anatomizes two bitterly opposed women’s movements, tracing a connection between 1977 and 2016." - The New Yorker
"While the shortcomings of the women’s movement in protecting their advances is well-documented in this book, it is the rise of conservative women and how they redirected the Republican Party’s positions that makes the book so interesting. Feminists and supporters of women’s rights will find this difficult to swallow, but this is an important book for them to read." - New York Journal of Books
"Fascinating…DIVIDED WE STAND evokes two movements, two equal mobilizations, struggling over the role of women in America." - The Nation
"The NWC [National Women's Conference] featured people and political trends whose significance is all the greater given the election’s outcome. The book details how the conference provoked a bitter debate between feminists and conservative women activists…[Spruill’s] interviews of key participants both illuminate the narrative and preserve first-hand accounts for future scholars." - Washington Independent Review of Books
"Spruill strives to be evenhanded, pointing out the mistakes and excesses of both sides…DIVIDED WE STAND lucidly explains just how we got so divided." - Dallas Morning News
"Spruill’s project of historical reclamation is an important one … The value of reconstructing those days [of the 1977 National Women’s Conference] and pondering their meaning for the light they might shed on ours is unquestionable." - New York Review of Books
"Noted historian Marjorie J. Spruill has written a well-researched, detailed history of the modern-day fight over women's rights and its 'essential role' in bringing the United States to the fractious state we currently endure . . . Divided We Stand is essential for understanding the recent past as well as the present." - Southwestern Historical Quarterly
"An outstanding study of the National Women's Conference (NWC). Published to coincide with the conference's fortieth anniversary, Divided We Stand is the first book to fully explore this momentous event . . . [Spruill] places readers in strategy sessions and frontline skirmishes, allowing them to feel what it was like to be a part of the buildup to and the aftermath of the NWC." - Journal of Southern History
About the Author
- Publisher : Bloomsbury USA; First Edition (February 28, 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1632863146
- ISBN-13 : 978-1632863140
- Item Weight : 1.78 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.41 x 1.5 x 9.58 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #917,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Marjorie J. Spruill
Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics
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.
There are moments I understood "the other side" , and clues to how and why they rose up.
Read the book.