Life. Men. Alcohol. Shoes.

Wednesday, January 3

I guess this makes me a feminist

Question: Where does the following take place?

If a married woman "earned or inherited any money, it was [her husband's]. Men owned their children. . . . A woman's body belonged to her husband, no matter how brutal or syphilitic he might be. If a woman was raped, it was her disgrace. . . . Few jobs were open to women -- mostly domestic service, teaching children and prostitution." Women did not have the right to vote, and abortion was illegal.”

Iraq…. No
Afghanistan… Nope
China… Not close

That’s New York City in the 1890’s. The copy is excerpted from
“Sex Wars: A Novel of the Gilded Age in New York” by Marge Percy. I just finished reading this at the wee hours of the morning. Originally, I picked up the book for a yester-year look at my Lower East Side neighborhood. (Bring back the Ludlow Jail for the Saturday night drunkards. But, I’ll pass on the Houston Street brothels). The storyline follows early feminists: Victoria Woodhull (the first woman to run for U.S. President), Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady.

Until I read this book, when I thought of feminism automatically Smith College girls came to mind -- unshaven, lesbians, who hate men. (Youch - what an awful stereotype!) After finishing the book, I now have a whole new perspective. My fierce independence, my bank account, my self-supporting job, my Nuva-Ring, the freedom to travel… All thanks to these early feminists.

While there doesn't seem to be an overly active feminist movement these days, it seems women are still claiming ground. Consider that 100 years ago, few jobs were open to women. It is fitting that this week Nancy Pellosi becomes the first woman to act as Speaker of the House. It doesn't seem too far beyond the realm of possibilities for a woman president in the next 25 years...


At 2:10 PM, Blogger Frankly, Scarlett said...

DUDE! I just picked this up at Barnes & Noble!!! Can't wait to read it! This is why the next time i'm in NYC, I'm taking you out for cocktails! :)

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Downtown said...

Fantasic book! Was up till 1:30AM last night finishing it... Drinks to discuss should be in order!

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Wanda said...

That sounds like an awesome book... I am adding it to my to-read list. :) And seriously, many times when I'm feeling sorry for myself over something I just remind myself that I have SO MUCH going on for me that wouldn't have been possible even 50 years ago.

If you're interested in sociology/non-fiction, try Stephanie Coontz's Marriage: A History - she talks about the the idea of love ultimately undermined marriage's force as a social institution but made it more personally satisfying.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Downtown said...

Wanda: I'm completely obsessed with this book. In one chapter the women were discussing how when Mr. Smith purchased a slave, as a sign of ownership, that person's name becomes "First Name" Smith.

When Mr. Smith marries his wife, she becomes "First Name" Smith. Talk about ownership...

Further support for why I will not take my husband's name. If he gives me that line about "I want our family to have the same name" -- he is more than welcome to take my last name.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Harleyblue said...

This is on my Amazon Wish List. Now I'm even more excited to read it. And I'm not taking my husband's last name either. I decided that long ago.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Elle said...

I'm totally stealing this from you when you're done!


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