No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women

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Random House Publishing Group, Dec 18, 2007 - Social Science - 464 pages
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Repeatedly declared dead by the media, the women’s movement has never been as vibrant as it is today. Indeed as Stanford professor and award-winning author Estelle B. Freedman argues in her compelling new book, feminism has reached a critical momentum from which there is no turning back. A truly global movement, as vital and dynamic in the developing world as it is in the West, feminism has helped women achieve authority in politics, sports, and business, and has mobilized public concern for once-taboo issues like rape, domestic violence, and breast cancer. And yet much work remains before women attain real equality. In this fascinating book, Freedman examines the historical forces that have fueled the feminist movement over the past two hundred years–and explores how women today are looking to feminism for new approaches to issues of work, family, sexuality, and creativity.

Freedman begins with an incisive analysis of what feminism means and why it took root in western Europe and the United States at the end of the eighteenth century. The rationalist, humanistic philosophy of the Enlightenment, which ignited the American Revolution, also sparked feminist politics, inspiring such pioneers as Mary Wollstonecraft and Susan B. Anthony. Race has always been as important as gender in defining feminism, and Freedman traces the intricate ties between women’s rights and abolitionism in the United States in the years before the Civil War and the long tradition of radical women of color, stretching back to the impassioned rhetoric of Sojourner Truth.

As industrialism and democratic politics spread after World War II, feminist politics gained momentum and sophistication throughout the world. Their impact began to be felt in every aspect of society–from the workplace to the chambers of government to relations between the sexes. Because of feminism, Freedman points out, the line between the personal and the political has blurred, or disappeared, and issues once considered “merely” private–abortion, sexual violence, homosexuality, reproductive health, beauty and body image–have entered the public arena as subjects of fierce, ongoing debate.

Freedman combines a scholar’s meticulous research with a social critic’s keen eye. Sweeping in scope, searching in its analysis, global in its perspective, No Turning Back will stand as a defining text in one of the most important social movements of all time.

From the Hardcover edition.

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No turning back: the history of feminism and the future of women

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Stanford historian Freedman (Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America) offers a comprehensive, accessible synthesis of interdisciplinary feminist scholarship, placing feminism in a ... Read full review

Review: No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women

User Review  - Andrea - Goodreads

A pretty wide-ranging look at the history of feminism. Very readable and broad-reaching. I especially appreciated the early chapters about women's roles before feminism and the discussion of ... Read full review


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About the author (2007)

For the past twenty-five years, Estelle B. Freedman, a founder of the Program in Feminist Studies at Stanford University, has written about the history of women in the United States. Freedman is the author of two award-winning studies: Their Sisters’ Keepers: Women’s Prison Reform in America, 1830-1930 and Maternal Justice: Miriam Van Waters and the Female Reform Tradition. Freedman coauthored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Professor Freedman lives in San Francisco.

From the Hardcover edition.

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