One of the most important series of events in modern times--the restructuring of sex roles to adapt them to modern life--is here chronicled from the perspective of a lifetime of studying and writing about women. In this lively, lucid book Jessie Bernard examines, with concern and expertise, the dramatic changes in values experienced by women of all ages in all classes of society, and how these changes affect the options available to women today--as women, as wives, as mothers.
Bernard begins her five-part examination with a critical overview of research on sex differences, pointing out the sexism that is implicit in most of this research and suggesting what kinds of research should be done. She discusses the paradox involved in preparing girls for the most demanding of all roles--motherhood--by fostering weakness in them rather than strength. She writes of the ages and stages of motherhood and the momentous changes now in process in the roles of wife and mother, as more women combine labor force participation with marriage and motherhood. Bernard contrasts the positions of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century feminist movements with respect to class, and reports on the influence of the feminist movement on working class and African-American women.
The last part of the book tells of the bitter fruits of extreme sex role specialization, both for women and for society, and examines policy-relevant research on motherhood. Bernard explores the many new potentialities open to women, and, finally, the societal forms that will be necessary in order for women to plan their lives with wider latitude. Both the general reader and students of women's studies will be delighted and informed by Jessie Bernard's enlightening report on where women have been and where they are going in American society.