In full flower: aging women, power, and sexuality : a history

Front Cover
Knopf, 1992 - Family & Relationships - 422 pages
1 Review
Here, brilliantly and provocatively drawn in the context of history from prepatriarchal times to the present, is the woman of mature years as she has been envisaged by herself, by men, and by her sisters--as she has been mythologized, denigrated, adored, tyrannized, empowered. Beginning with the earliest known rituals and legends and continuing through Western history, Lois Banner explores the roots of our changing attitudes toward growing old--and the stereotypes that have often expressed them--tracing the ways in which both women and men have been shaped by their cultures and by the continuous counterposing of spirituality and sexuality. Interweaving social, literary, and demographic history, she shows us the waxing and waning status of the woman past girlhood--from her primacy at the dawn of history (as suggested in veiled stories of woman's power), through the classical and early medieval eras, to her decline from the thirteenth century to the eighteenth. And we see the emergence that followed of the idealized, domesticated, and sentimentalized nuclear family centered around the mother--and the concurrent vilification or mockery of the older unmarried woman, which continues to the present. Banner provides new perspective on such subjects as goddess-young god stories in ancient religions, witchcraft, menopause, changes in male and female dress, the rise of the grandmother as a social type, and affectionate and erotic relationships through history, particularly between older women and younger men. She contemplates the mature women portrayed in high and popular art, from Penelope in the Odyssey and the Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales to Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Shewrites about attempts over the centuries to mute the voices of older women--and about those who could not be silenced, from Sappho to Elizabeth I, from the women of France's eighteenth-century salons to nineteenth-century reformers and twentieth-century writers. Throughout we see the autonomy and social power of women as a continuing ebb and flow--periods of progress toward gender equality alternating with periods of decline--as Lois Banner follows the threads of conflicting and complementary social impulses to create a richly detailed and comprehensive narrative tapestry, a superb historical portrait of generations of women in full flower.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

In full flower: aging women, power, and sexuality: a history

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This is a complex, difficult book that should nonetheless be of great interest to scholars of women's studies. Interdisciplinary in scope, and utilizing a variety of demographic, economic ... Read full review


CHAPTER ONE Sunset Boulevard

8 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1992)

Lois Banner has taught at Rutgers University, Princeton University, the University of Scranton, Hamilton College, the University of Maryland, and George Washington University. Currently, she is Professor of History and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. Her previous books include AMERICAN BEAUTY; IN FULL FLOWER: AGING WOMEN, POWER, AND SEXUALITY and most recently Intertwined Lives, an acclaimed chronicle of the lives and loves of Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict.