This dense, well-argued classic underscores the need to take expert advice with a shaker of salt. Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English ably show that many experts gleefully hammer recalcitrant souls into a shape acceptable to society, rather than encouraging people to find their own way. The book plunges into 150 years of misbegotten advice to women and questionable insights into feminine nature that have many modern parallels. In the service of better living through science, women have undergone deprivational rest cures that most war rules would disallow, submitted to surgical bludgeoning of ovaries and uterus to quell a list of unladylike behaviors, and humbly followed childcare advice that amounted to abuse. Though slanted by its bent toward worst cases and offenses against only one sex, it offers much to mull over for hopeful seekers of mix-and-bake directions for a better life.
A provocative new perspective on female history, the history of American medicine and psychology, and the history of child-rearing unlike any other.