I picked up a copy of Gail Collins's new book, When Everything Changed, today. It covers the dramatic transformation of women's lives from 1960 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election. I may post a review at some point. For now, however, I'd like to make note of just three quick items:
First, and perhaps a bit odd, is that one of the three icons of American womanhood pictured on the cover of the paperback edition is Michell Obama who is renowned for nothing so much as being a wife and mother.
Second, the back cover assures us that Collins writes in an "agenda-free tone". I had to chuckle at that since, before I read that blurb on the back cover, I had already scoured the index and found not a single mention of common terms associated with religion including: Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, ordination, pastor, priest, Egalitarian. Nor did I find any names of religious feminists listed in the index. That tells me the book is religion-free, not agenda-free. Whether or not one views religion as a positive force, how can you pretend to be writing an "agenda-free" book on women's history for the last fifty years and not mention the transformation in religious practice?
The last item I want to mention is the pictures. Along with poking around the edges of a new book and reading through the index, I always turn to the pictures before I settle in to read. Along with pictures of Gloria Steinhem and Betty Friedan, in this section we also find pictures of Anita Bryant and Phyllis Schlafly. But the picture section ends with the photograph of a woman I have never heard of and I doubt if any of you have, either.
The last picture is of Lori Piestawa, the first woman to die in the Iraq conflict.
Oh yes, we've been liberated for much in the past 50 years, included being liberated for death.