Cover image for The women who broke all the rules : how the choices of a generation changed our lives
The women who broke all the rules : how the choices of a generation changed our lives
Evans, Susan, Ed. D.
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Naperville, IL : Sourcebooks, [1999]

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xx, 229 pages ; 23 cm
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HQ1421 .E94 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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These accidental pioneers became a generation of adventurers, explorers & leaders, crafting new & more flexible models for careers, relationships & self.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The subjects of this book, women of the post-World War II baby-boomer generation, broke with more traditional role models to create what we know as "women's liberation," or the feminist movement. Evans and Avis, both social science professors at the University of San Francisco, interviewed 100 middle-class women born between 1945 and 1955 who perceive their lives as being both conventional and unconventional. While women have always worked, those of this generation came of age during the social upheaval of the Vietnam era, trying to resolve the conflict between parental approval of "good girls" and the desire to follow their own dreams. Grouped thematically, their life stories offer insight into gender roles and expectations, and why some women still do not take credit for their own success, attributing it instead to luck rather than to intelligence or hard work. Responding to their dilemmas with humor, these women offer alternative answers to such questions as "So, how come you're not married?" ("I've become the person my mother hoped I'd marry") and statements such as "Old rule: have children while you're young" ("New truth: have children, preferably before menopause"). There's not much new here, but this book is sure to evoke personal comparisons from readersÄgiving new meaning to old memoriesÄas well as encouragement and inspiration. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Using oral histories, Evans, a University of San Francisco professor, and Avis, a licensed psychologist and director of the Life Transitions Institute, piece together the stories of everyday women of the baby boom generation. Born between 1945 and 1955, these "torchbearers" discuss marriage, careers, delayed child bearing, female friendships, and family relationships. The authors examine adult female psychological and professional development through interviews with over 100 mainly white, heterosexual women from supposedly diverse backgrounds. The analysis is rather thin and contains some language that oversimplifies women's plight, e.g., "they were programmed to follow a lockstep sequence from school to marriage." This is a popular study aimed at a general middle-class professional audience; readers looking for more detail might turn to Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America 1945-1960 (Temple Univ., 1994) and Generations: A Century of Women Speak About Their Lives (LJ 7/97). Recommended for public libraries only.ÄJenny Lynn Presnell, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From Chapter One, "I See Myself as an Accidental Pioneer"

"If you could talk to the women who came across America in covered wagons, they'd say they weren't very tough either. I did what I had to do. That was the case for most of my generation. It was all timing. We never set out to blaze trails, yet in so many ways, we did."

The generation born between 1945 and 1955, the first decade of the baby boom, is the first in which vast numbers of American women chose to deviate from conventional patterns of education, marriage, childbearing and careers. Raised with the traditional female expectations of the 1950s--to go to college, get married and have a family--they encountered unanticipated events in adolescence and early adulthood which changed the course of their lives.

Like Sleeping Beauty, an entire generation was awakened by the collective energy of the radical counterculture, the civil-rights movement and second-wave feminism. Because these women entered young adulthood in the late 1960s, a time of enormous social change, their thoughts and actions directly challenged society's narrow and stifling rules for girls. They became accidental pioneers in the process, going where women had never gone before.

Remarkably, this generation went beyond conventional limits and rules in their twenties, thirties and forties, not just during adolescence. As teenagers and young adults, they began the lifelong process of being risk-takers, bold in their pursuit of both professional and personal success. When the doors to traditionally male professions swung open, they were among the first women to take advantage of emerging opportunities. When they weren't challenging the assumptions about who could enter certain occupations, they were breaking every rule in the "good girl" handbook.

They defied the sanctions against interracial and interfaith marriage, abortion, single motherhood, divorce and unmarried cohabitation which, at one time, were big violations of social mores for middle-class females. They led the way by showing that women could engage in such conduct and still be respectable people, by any standards.

The story of this transitional generation is a contemporary version of the classic pioneer tale of self-transformation and triumph over adversity. Like early pioneers, these women took different roads, made distinctly different choices than their predecessors, and learned that those who "go first" face difficult times when they reject established social and cultural conventions. Unlike early pioneer women who left home with their husbands and families, these women had only each other to buffer what they encountered along the way and their journey still continues to have profound and far-reaching implications for how society views women.

Despite relentless efforts over the last thirty years to rein them back in, this generation boldly refused to accept second-class status on the basis of their sex and created unprecedented life options for all women, not just for themselves. Because we see their lives as prototypes for all women learning how to survive and thrive, we call the women of this generation Torchbearers. Torchbearers initiate, originate, break new ground and scout unknown trails. As transmitters of the light of knowledge, they also have the responsibility to pass the torch to those who follow.

The women of this generation were forced, out of necessity, to meet the challenge of integrating valuable lessons from the past with abundant new ways of being. Through the course of their adult development, they pioneered previously unheard of freedoms and choices for women that most now take for granted and constructed empowered lives by devising new ways to love and work. As a result of their efforts, women today are truly free to become fully self-actualized persons, without the constraints of gender.

We want to honor this amazing and resourceful generation for their sense of spirit and adventure, their ability to triumph over obstacles, and their creativity in crafting an entirely new model for female adult development. Theirs is a living legacy that must be shared with women of all ages.

The bold statements we just made about the generation of women who broke all the rules may seem obvious to some, but if they are so obvious, why haven't we read about their incredible, inspirational lives in the media and popular press? In fact, the opposite is the case. With the exception of some feminist writers, few have publicly extolled the virtues of this generation. Apart from articles about famous members, such as Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Diane Keaton and Amy Tan, we found very little in the popular literature that commends this generation as special and unique.

Instead, they have been characterized as selfish, anti-male, unappealing and unattractive, neurotic, narcissistic and anti-life, to name just a few. While we knew intuitively from our personal experience that this picture was distorted, it wasn't until after we finished our interviews with one hundred ordinary but extraordinary representatives of this generation that even we fully realized the extent and depth of their impact on womankind.
Excerpted from The Women Who Broke All the Rules: How the Choices of a Generation Changed Our Lives by Susan Evans, Joan Avis All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Part 1 Who We Are As Women
Chapter 1 1 See Myself as an Accidental Pioneerp. 3
Chapter 2 By the Time I Got to College, They Changed All the Rulesp. 15
Chapter 3 I was a Foot Soldier in the Sexual Revolutionp. 37
Chapter 4 I've Become the Person My Mother Hoped I'd Marryp. 61
Chapter 5 I Like the Journey As Much As the Destinationp. 87
Part 2 Who we Are As a Generation
Chapter 6 I've Made Lifestyle Choices That Surprised Even Mep. 119
Chapter 7 I've Grown, What's His Problem?p. 147
Chapter 8 I'm Blessed to Have Women Friends Who are the Backbone of My Lifep. 173
Chapter 9 I Tell Women to Keep Walking and Remember to Pass the Torchp. 197
Appendix Interview Questionsp. 225