By the year 2030, the average life expectancy of women in industrialized countries could reach ninety—exceeding that of men by about ten years. At the present time, postmenopausal women represent more than fifteen percent of the world’s population and this figure is likely to grow.
From an evolutionary perspective, these demographic numbers pose some intriguing questions. Darwinian theory holds that a successful life is measured in terms of reproduction. How is it, then, that a woman’s lifespan can greatly exceed her childbearing and childrearing years? Is this phenomenon simply a byproduct of improved standards of living, or do older women—grandmothers in particular—play a measurable role in increasing their family members’ biological success?
Until now, these questions have not been examined in a thorough and comprehensive manner. Bringing togethertheoretical and empirical work byinternationally recognized scholars in anthropology, psychology, ethnography, and the social sciences, Grandmotherhood explores the evolutionary purpose and possibilities of female post-generative life. Students and scholars of human evolution, anthropology, and even gerontology will look to this volume as a major contribution to the current literature in evolutionary studies.
For about a decade, one of the most influential forces in US anti-immigrant politics was the Minuteman Project. The armed volunteers made headlines patrolling the southern border. What drove their ethno-nationalist politics?
Jennifer L. Johnson spent hundreds of hours observing and interviewing Minutemen, hoping to answer that question. She reached surprising conclusions. While the public face of border politics is hypermasculine—men in uniforms, fatigues, and suits—older women were central to the Minutemen. Women mobilized support and took part in border missions. These women compel us to look beyond ideological commitments and material benefits in seeking to understand the appeal of right-wing politics. Johnson argues that the women of the Minutemen were motivated in part by the gendered experience of aging in America. In a society that makes old women irrelevant, aging white women found their place through anti-immigrant activism, which wedded native politics to their concern for the safety of their families. Grandmothers on Guard emphasizes another side of nationalism: the yearning for inclusion. The nation the Minutemen imagined was not only a space of exclusion but also one in which these women could belong.
Throughout West African societies, at times of social crises, postmenopausal women—the Mothers—make a ritual appeal to their innate moral authority. The seat of this power is the female genitalia. Wielding branches or pestles, they strip naked and slap their genitals and bare breasts to curse and expel the forces of evil. In An Intimate Rebuke Laura S. Grillo draws on fieldwork in Côte d’Ivoire that spans three decades to illustrate how these rituals of Female Genital Power (FGP) constitute religious and political responses to abuses of power. When deployed in secret, FGP operates as spiritual warfare against witchcraft; in public, it serves as a political activism. During Côte d’Ivoire’s civil wars FGP challenged the immoral forces of both rebels and the state. Grillo shows how the ritual potency of the Mothers’ nudity and the conjuration of their sex embodies a moral power that has been foundational to West African civilization. Highlighting the remarkable continuity of the practice across centuries while foregrounding the timeliness of FGP in contemporary political resistance, Grillo shifts perspectives on West African history, ethnography, comparative religious studies, and postcolonial studies.
Poverty among the elderly is sharply gendered—women over sixty-five are twice as likely as men to live below the poverty line. Older women receive smaller Social Security payments and are less likely to have private pensions. They are twice as likely as men to need a caregiver and twice as likely as men to be a caregiver. Recent efforts of some in Washington to reduce and privatize social welfare programs threaten to exacerbate existing gender disparities among older Americans. They also threaten to exacerbate inequality among women by race, class, and marital status. Madonna Harrington Meyer and Pamela Herd explain these disparities and assess how proposed policy reforms would affect inequality among the aged. Market Friendly or Family Friendly? documents the cumulative disadvantages that make it so difficult for women to achieve economic and health security when they retire. Wage discrimination and occupational segregation reduce women's lifetime earnings, depressing their savings and Social Security benefits. While more women are employed today than a generation ago, they continue to shoulder a greater share of the care burden for children, the disabled, and the elderly. Moreover, as marriage rates have declined, more working mothers are raising children single-handedly. Women face higher rates of health problems due to their lower earnings and the high demands associated with unpaid care work. There are also financial consequences to these family and work patterns. Harrington Meyer and Herd contrast the impact of market friendly programs that maximize individual choice, risk, and responsibility with family friendly programs aimed at redistributing risks and resources. They evaluate popular policies on the current agenda, considering the implications for inequality. But they also evaluate less discussed policy proposals. In particular, minimum benefits for Social Security, as well as credits for raising children, would improve economic security for all, regardless of marital status. National health insurance would also reduce inequality, as would reforms to Medicare, particularly increased coverage of long term care. Just as important are policies such as universal preschool and paid family leave aimed at reducing the disadvantages women face during their working years. The gender gaps that women experience during their work and family lives culminate in income and health disparities between men and women during retirement, but the problem has received scant attention. Market Friendly or Family Friendly? is a comprehensive introduction to this issue, and a significant contribution to the debate over the future of America's entitlement programs. A Volume in the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology
Whether widowed, divorced, married, or single, more and more women of retirement age are taking control of their lives. Maturing with Moxie takes a close look at personal and professional circumstances affecting women over sixty by surveying the best and latest thinking on issues from housing to health care, finances to family, and combines them all in one practical, go-to volume. The veteran consultant Jan Cannon takes a comprehensive approach to a range of decisions facing women as they age, and offers sensible, helpful advice on everyday questions about employment, Medicare, changing family dynamics, and dating. Drawing on her extensive client case files, Cannon poses provocative questions, designs useful exercises, and offers clear, upbeat examples of women moving forward with purpose. Maturing with Moxie gives women a wealth of resources for finding the answers they need.
Never Married Women
Barbara Levy Simon Temple University Press, 1989 Library of Congress HQ800.2.S55 1987 | Dewey Decimal 305.489065209748
"[Simon] deals seriously and perceptively with lives almost never granted such respect--those of the 'spinster,' the 'old maid.' ...There is also a particular ironic energy."
"Nothing is more ridiculous than someone who says, upon learning that I never got married, â€˜Oh, you would like my Aunt _____ ! She never got married either. You two would have a lot in common.' "--from an interview, August 1984.
In this timely and provocative study, Barbara Levy Simon interviews fifty American women, born between 1884 and 1918 who were never married, and examines their emphatic refusal to be "yoked by wifing," as one woman expressed it. A spirit of independence pervades these compelling self-portraits as the women describe the day-to-day activities, options and adaptations, as well as the stigma that shaped lives that defied the spinster stereotype. Simon explains: "I have written this book about them because I want others to learn, as I have, about the diversity of their experiences and perspectives. It is only by immersion in this variety that one can begin to comprehend the discrepancy between popular notions of â€˜old maids' and the actualities of single women's daily lives.... Though women who have never married have often been judged, they have seldom been studied."
With care and empathy, the author presents women who lived at a time when not being married and being financially independent were considered deviant. From a variety of ethnic, religious, educational, and social groups, and ranging in age from sixty-six to one hundred and one years old, these women discuss the work they have loved or hated and their relations with family and friends. The autobiographical reflections provide insights about the symbolic and material worlds of never-married women and comparisons to the lives of single career women today.
In the 1980s, a significantly higher proportion of American women are foregoing marriage than at any point in the past one hundred years. Simon confronts head-on the image of the passive and unhappy old maid, presenting instead a group of independent and self-actualizing women who, in many cases, chose to remain single.
"With women choosing to be single in greater numbers than at any other time in this century, a study of single women is most timely.... Although considered deviant by the greater society, these women all manifest a feisty, independent spirit that defies conventional stereotypes of â€˜old maids' or â€˜spinsters.â€˜ ... Maybe you should give your mother a copy of this book the next time she asks."
--New Directions for Women
"An important work on a segment of the female population that has remained single for at least six decades in a society that expected its women to marry and bear children [Simon] evaluates the actualities of these women's lives versus popular images and stereotypes..."
"By offering concrete examples of how the nuclear family is oppressive to those who stand outside of it, Never Married Women breathes life into critiques of the family articulated by...other feminist theorists. And by focusing on the lives of elderly single women, Simon aptly illustrates the injustice of our over reliance on the family--instead of the state--to care for the dependent elderly."
"This book is a paean to women's resilience, adaptability, and courage to live with the consequences of their own decisions."
--Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health
A frank, honest, and insightful look into the lives of women over fifty.
The Second Half explores, in photographic portraits and interviews, how the second half of life is experienced by women from many different cultures. From a French actress to a British novelist, from an Algerian nomad to a Saudi Arabian doctor, and an American politician, Ellen Warner traveled all over the world to interview women about their lives. She asked them what they learned in the first half that was helpful in the second, and what advice they would give to younger women. Their revealing and inspiring stories are enlightening for all readers, and are illustrated by Warner’s stunning portraits which tell their own story.
Drawing from 167 examples of decorative needlework—primarily samplers and quilts from 114 collections across the United States—made by individual women aged forty years and over between 1820 and 1860, this exquisitely illustrated book explores how women experienced social and cultural change in antebellum America.
The book is filled with individual examples, stories, and over eighty fine color photographs that illuminate the role that samplers and needlework played in the culture of the time. For example, in October 1852, Amy Fiske (1785–1859) of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, stitched a sampler. But she was not a schoolgirl making a sampler to learn her letters. Instead, as she explained, “The above is what I have taken from my sampler that I wrought when I was nine years old. It was w[rough]t on fine cloth [and] it tattered to pieces. My age at this time is 66 years.”
Situated at the intersection of women’s history, material culture study, and the history of aging, this book brings together objects, diaries, letters, portraits, and prescriptive literature to consider how middle-class American women experienced the aging process. Chapters explore the physical and mental effects of “old age” on antebellum women and their needlework, technological developments related to needlework during the antebellum period and the tensions that arose from the increased mechanization of textile production, and how gift needlework functioned among friends and family members. Far from being solely decorative ornaments or functional household textiles, these samplers and quilts served their own ends. They offered aging women a means of coping, of sharing and of expressing themselves. These “threads of time” provide a valuable and revealing source for the lives of mature antebellum women.
Publication of this book was made possible in part through generous funding from the Coby Foundation, Ltd and from the Quilters Guild of Dallas, Helena Hibbs Endowment Fund.
“Tell Me a Riddle” renders an unforgettable portrait of a working class couple when the gender determined differences in their experiences of poverty and familial life give rise to bitter conflict after almost four decades of marriage. As she dies from cancer, Eva, the protagonist, recollects a revolutionary past that both critiques and offers hope for the present. Deborah Rosenfelt’s introduction and the essays in this volume survey the critical reception of this highly acclaimed story, analyze its biographical and historical contexts, examine the text’s language, structure, spiritual and moral significance, and illuminate Olsen’s relationship to the American midwest, the American left, and the Jewish enlightenment tradition.
This casebook includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of Olsen’s life, an authoritative text of “Tell Me a Riddle,” relevant essays by Olsen, seven critical essays, and a bibliography.
The contributors are: Joanne Trautmann Banks, Constance Coiner, Rachel Blau Duplessis, Mara Faulkner, Elaine Orr, Linda Ray Pratt, and Deborah Silverton Rosenfelt.
Like 75% of American women, Ronnie Citron-Fink dyed her hair, visiting the salon every few weeks to hide gray roots in her signature dark brown mane. She wanted to look attractive, professional, young. Yet as a journalist covering health and the environment, she knew something wasn’t right. All those unpronounceable chemical names on the back of the hair dye box were far from natural. Were her recurring headaches and allergies telltale signs that the dye offered the illusion of health, all the while undermining it?
So after twenty-five years of coloring, Ronnie took a leap and decided to ditch the dye. Suddenly everyone, from friends and family to rank strangers, seemed to have questions about her hair. How’d you do it? Are you doing that on purpose? Are you OK? Armed with a mantra that explained her reasons for going gray—the upkeep, the cost, the chemicals—Ronnie started to ask her own questions.
What are the risks of coloring? Why are hair dye companies allowed to use chemicals that may be harmful? Are there safer alternatives? Maybe most importantly, why do women feel compelled to color? Will I still feel like me when I have gray hair?
True Roots follows Ronnie’s journey from dark dyes to a silver crown of glory, from fear of aging to embracing natural beauty. Along the way, readers will learn how to protect themselves, whether by transitioning to their natural color or switching to safer products. Like Ronnie, women of all ages can discover their own hair story, one built on individuality, health, and truth.
Women who were sixty or older at the turn of the twenty-first century have lived through some of recent history’s most momentous moments—and yet these women often believe that their personal lives and stories are insignificant, not worthy of being recorded for future generations. To change that perception and capture some of these life stories before they are lost, the Story Circle Network, a national organization dedicated to helping women write about their lives, developed the Older Women’s Legacy (OWL) Circle Memoir Workshops. During the first two years of the project (1998–2000), nearly 500 older women participated in workshops that offered them the opportunity and encouragement to reflect on and create written records of their lives. With Courage and Common Sense presents an extensive selection of memoirs from the OWL Circle project. Organized thematically, they describe women’s experiences of identity, place, work, family life, love and marriage, loss and healing, adventures great and small, major historical events, and legacies to keep and pass along. Taken as a whole, the memoirs chronicle far-reaching changes in the ways that women participated in the world during the twentieth century. They show how women learned to surmount obstacles, to courageously make the most of the opportunities that came their way, and to move quietly and wisely beyond the limits that were imposed upon them.
Today, more American women than ever before stay in the workforce into their sixties and seventies. This trend emerged in the 1980s, and has persisted during the past three decades, despite substantial changes in macroeconomic conditions. Why is this so? Today’s older American women work full-time jobs at greater rates than women in other developed countries.
In Women Working Longer, editors Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz assemble new research that presents fresh insights on the phenomenon of working longer. Their findings suggest that education and work experience earlier in life are connected to women’s later-in-life work. Other contributors to the volume investigate additional factors that may play a role in late-life labor supply, such as marital disruption, household finances, and access to retirement benefits. A pioneering study of recent trends in older women’s labor force participation, this collection offers insights valuable to a wide array of social scientists, employers, and policy makers.