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A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s Hardcover – January 4, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist


The Buffalo News
“For some of us, this is a jolting ‘remember when;’ for others, a slice of history forgotten all too soon. For all of us, there remains relevance.”

“Packed with fascinating statistics and research on 20th-century American social history, including the effect of ‘liberation’ on middle-class, working-class and African-American women, Coontz shines new light on a landmark work.”

Bitch Magazine
“As the author of several books that challenge the accepted historical narrative of ‘traditional’ families and institutions…Coontz soberly checks facts, corrects misinformation, and fills in holes in the record. Most important, she shows how assumptions and misinformation about the past are used not only to paint a distorted picture of how things used to be, but to justify insidious policies and legislation like the Defense of Marriage Act. In her latest work…Coontz focuses on a book we’ve come to take for granted, arguing that it deserves a closer look…. [S]he not only explores the actual content of The Feminine Mystique (going well beyond the usual proclamations about its controversiality and importance), but insists that readers (and, presumably, feminists) figure out how to reconcile our idealized version of history with information that complicates it.”
Publishers Weekly
“This perceptive [and] engrossing…book provides welcome context and background to a still controversial bestseller that changed how women viewed themselves.”

“This book offers a nuanced perspective on the women’s movement by ending the invisibility of African-American women.”
Nancy F. Cott, Trumbull Professor of American History, Harvard University
“Stephanie Coontz’s new book takes you on an engrossing and enlightening tour of the past, with wisdom and meaning for the future.”
John Bradshaw, author of Reclaiming Virtue and the #1 New York Times bestsellers, Homecoming and Creating Love
“Stephanie Coontz continues to amaze me. In her new book, A Strange Stirring, she chronicles the untold story of some of America’s greatest pioneers. This is a must read for all who care about our country’s growth and maturity. We owe the women described here the same gratitude and respect given to Lewis and Clark and the others who carved out this great nation.”

“Stephanie Coontz is not just one of the most important historians in America, she is also a personal hero of mine and a brilliant writer. This book—like all her books before it—has been a marvel and education for me to behold. I am awed by the scope of this research, of this thinking, and I am struck once more by how much there is learned (and taught) about the slow, stubborn advancement of women in America over the last one hundred years. I will keep A Strange Stirring in the forefront of my bookshelf forever.”
Library Journal
“Coontz recaptures the impact of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique when it was published in 1963. Although Friedan claimed credit for initiating the modern feminist movement, Coontz places the book more dispassionately in its historical context as one of many factors working against entrenched gender roles. Still, Coontz demonstrates persuasively that women readers from many backgrounds found relief—some called it life-saving—in knowing that they were not crazy and not alone in their need to find some work independent of their family roles.”

Donna L. Franklin, author of Ensuring Inequality: The Structural Transformation of the African-American Family

Kirkus Reviews
“A sharp revisiting of the generation that was floored by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), and how the book is still relevant today…. A valuable education for women and men.”

Daniel Horowitz, author of Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminine Mystique
It Changed My Life was the title of the book Betty Friedan wrote after her transformative 1963 The Feminine Mystique. And change she did the lives of American women. Now in her biography of a classic, Stephanie Coontz imaginatively explores the impact of Friedan’s book. Weaving a rich fabric from what women said in letters and interviews, from articles in popular magazines, current scholarship, and her own astute reading of the 1963 work, Coontz compellingly reveals how generations of women—from the flappers of the 1920s to the bloggers and helicopter moms of today—have responded to the challenges modern women face.”
Christie Hefner, former chairman and chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises and longest serving female C.E.O. of a U.S. public company

Michelle Goldberg, The New Republic
“Coontz recounts the catalytic effect that The Feminine Mystique had on a great many women. Her book is full of stories of desperate, suffering people who realized they weren’t crazy only when they picked up Friedan’s bestseller…. But The Feminine Mystique is not just an artifact of a benighted era. It still contains important lessons about one of the most important questions of all, which is how to create a meaningful, autonomous life.”
Women’s Review of Books
“Nearly fifty years after The Feminine Mystique exploded onto the scene, Stephanie Coontz measures Friedan’s outsized reputation against a revealing body of research gleaned from archival sources, oral interviews, and surveys she conducted with nearly 200 women. The result is a brisk, even-handed account of the book’s literary achievements, political limitations, and enduring legacy…. Coontz sheds new light on Friedan’s savvy as both a writer and an activist. But Coontz is as intent on demystifying The Feminine Mystique and stripping away the exaggerated and false claims surrounding it as she is on recounting its merits.”



Seattle Times
“This book enriches Coontz’s impressive body of work on American family life…. She continues to deftly make history a personal science, persuading readers to ponder those societal yokes we’ve taken up to wear around our own necks…. A Strange Stirring reveals the power of two writers; both are able to see beyond the conventional view and the untold history, and enable the reader to look ahead with new eyes and new questions.”

Ladies Home Journal
“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.”

See all Editorial Reviews

Product details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002009
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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