In mid-twentieth-century America, women faced a paradox. Thanks to their efforts, World War II production had been robust, and in the peace that followed, more women worked outside the home than ever before, even dominating some professions. Yet the culture, from politicians to corporations to television shows, portrayed the ideal woman as a housewife. Many women happily assumed that role, but a small segment bucked the tide―women who wanted to use their talents differently, in jobs that had always been reserved for men. In They Called Us Girls: Stories of Female Ambition from Suffrage to Mad Men, author Kathleen Stone meets seven of these unconventional women. In insightful, personalized portraits that span a half-century, Kathleen weaves stories of female ambition, uncovering the families, teachers, mentors, and historical events that led to unexpected paths. What inspired these women, and what can they teach women and girls today?
Publisher : Cynren Press (March 1, 2022)
Language : English
Hardcover : 236 pages
ISBN-10 : 1947976249
How women build fulfilling lives is a question Kathleen has been thinking about since she was a girl. The daughter of a stay-at-home mother and a lawyer father, she went to law school as the feminist movement surged into a second wave. More recently she is the founder and co-host of the Boston literary salon, Booklab and has turned her full attention to writing. You can read a sample of her writing in her essay Ms. Magazine just published about Michelle Wu, her campaign manager, Mary Lou Akai and what she learned about immigrants while writing this book.
Kathleen interviewed these women, all born before 1935, about their ambition — where it came from and how it played out. They talked about early experiences and influences: parents, family friends, teachers, even institutions like settlement houses. Some had professors who encouraged them; others were told no woman belonged in the field. Some spouses gave invaluable support; others none at all. Many found strong mentors in the workplace. THEY CALLED US GIRLS is a fascinating and inspirational book about female ambition and unorthodox paths toward fulfillment that is essential reading for women and girls today.
Kathleen Stone notably featured extraordinary and inspiring women representing phenomenal careers including medicine, political and social activism, intelligence, physics, and law. Through historical backgrounds, readers glean not only their life stories, motivations, but also affecting changes in how we see the world. I really am so proud to be a woman and have these inspirational heroes to look up to.
I loved and enjoyed reading this book and will be one I will continue to recommend to my young students looking for inspiration for their future career path.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
As a writer, I spend most of my time thinking and writing about women's history, other books and art, and how they intersect. Previously, in what now seems like another life, I wrote countless legal briefs in my work as a lawyer. Disparate as this sounds, the through-line between my writing then and now is my interest in exploring new material and synthesizing it in written form.
My book, They Called Us Girls: Stories of Female Ambition from Suffrage to Mad Men, forthcoming from Cynren Press in March 2022, is a collection of biographical portraits of seven women who had careers in male-dominated professions in the mid-twentieth century. Through this group biography, I look at the subject of female ambition - where it came from and how it was nurtured in an era when housewife was considered the highest and best use of a woman's abilities.
When I began writing, I knew only bits and pieces of women's history. Really, most of what I knew came from my own experience of being in college, landing my first job and deciding to become a lawyer, all during the 1970s – heady times for the women's movement. But They Called Us Girls is about an older generation of women. To write about them I had to understand the world as it appeared then. How did a girl born in the 1920s, as most of the women were, see the world and discover what avenues would be open to her? I dug into historical research in order to situate the women's stories in a larger context, and came to see history from a women's perspective.
In addition to research – and this is true for every author – personal experience informs my writing. I'm a native Bostonian who loves the city, but also spends a lot of time in Maine. I attended Oberlin College, Boston University School of Law and Bennington Writing Seminars. I'm a wife, mother and sister. Also a skier, sailor and (decidedly amateur) jazz piano player.
I look forward to talking with you about They Called Us Girls, whether you're a book group member, a student or a solitary reader. Meanwhile, I'll be writing essays and reviews on a whole range of subjects and posting them on my website, kathleencstone.com.