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All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation

by Rebecca Traister

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7982827,236 (3.91)18
"In a provocative, groundbreaking work, National Magazine Award­-finalist Rebecca Traister, "the most brilliant voice on feminism in this country" (Anne Lamott), traces the history of unmarried women in America who, through social, political, and economic means, have radically shaped our nation. For legions of women, living single isn't news; it's life. In 2009, the award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister started All the Single Ladies--a book she thought would be a work of contemporary journalism--about the twenty-first century phenomenon of the American single woman. It was the year the proportion of American women who were married dropped below fifty percent; and the median age of first marriages, which had remained between twenty and twenty-two years old for nearly a century (1890-1980), had risen dramatically to twenty-seven. But over the course of her vast research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women, Traister discovered a startling truth: the phenomenon of the single woman in America is not a new one. And historically, when women were given options beyond early heterosexual marriage, the results were massive social change--temperance, abolition, secondary education, and more. Today, only twenty percent of Americans are wed by age twenty-nine, compared to nearly sixty percent in 1960. The Population Reference Bureau calls it a "dramatic reversal." All the Single Ladies is a remarkable portrait of contemporary American life and how we got here, through the lens of the single American woman. Covering class, race, sexual orientation, and filled with vivid anecdotes from fascinating contemporary and historical figures, All the Single Ladies is destined to be a classic work of social history and journalism. Exhaustively researched, brilliantly balanced, and told with Traister's signature wit and insight, this book should be shelved alongside Gail Collins's When Everything Changed"--… (more)
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I was really excited to read this book on why women aren't getting married any more. But I wasn't wowed. I found Traister's treatment of the subject to be very superficial -- focusing on what she and her friends were experiencing, with pretty limited deeper analysis. When she did turn to statistics, she employed a lot of motivated reasoning including interpretation of statistics that I didn't believe were significantly different. It was clear sometimes that she had a pet theory that she couldn't let go of, for instance, when she talked about how urbanization made single life easier, brushing off that the woman in her exemplary anecdote had to move out of NYC to Virginia to survive as a single mother. Also, her work really focused on singleness among highly educated, affluent white women. She had a chapter on African American women, but the breezy anecdotal tone of the book really didn't translate well to this. Even more than other chapters it felt like she interviewed one black woman (Nancy Giles) and generalized from there in favor of her hypothesis. Traister herself is married and waited until she was married to have children, and she really resists acknowledging that the postponement of both marriage and children among highly educated, affluent women is a different beast socially, psychologically and from a woman's liberation perspective than the childbirth before (and instead) of marriage among less privileged women. She references [b:Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage|73305|Promises I Can Keep Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage|Kathryn Edin|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1438872307l/73305._SY75_.jpg|1500229] a few times, but keeps returning to "my life is great! I have a career and female friends and a husband and kids. Isn't single life amazing for women?! ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
Just at chapter 3, but I can highly recommend Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies.

A few bits…

“…as the legal scholar Rachel Moran argues, while the feminist movement of the 1970s was in part a ‘direct response to these conditions of early and pervasive marriage,’ the ironic side effect was that single women had almost no place in the underpinnings of the movement” (20). Yes!

“Le Bon conceded that ‘Without a doubt there exist some distinguished women, very superior to the average man, but they are as exceptional as the birth of any monstrosity, as, for example, of a gorilla with two heads; consequently, we may neglect them entirely'” (53). Had not heard that one.

Oh, and this lovely tidbit: “Chambers-Schiller reports that in the medical establishment, ‘a painful menopause was the presumed consequence of reproductive organs that were not regularly bathe din male semen'” (54). ( )
  ptittle | Apr 22, 2023 |
From the start I have been cooing over this book. I am excited about the information flowing through these pages. I did not read it because I was looking for validation of my single status. I read it because the title is as catchy as the song it is named after.
First and foremost All The Single Ladies is about trends in marriage and the need for equal rights for woman who are choosing another route. It is about the stigma surrounding those women choosing to not marry or cohabitate, even though more and more women choose to remain single and do so happily.
I want everyone I know to read this book: The women, the men, the single, and the married. I could list all the passages I marked and dog eared along the way, but I will let you find them on your own (although many are posted to my social media).

"Quite suddenly, people are freer to take off in a number of directions, and they are taking advantage of that freedom.
That diversity of behavior is startling. It's different, uncharted, and admittedly a little scary."

"It's time to rebuild the world for the diverse women who live in it now, more freely, than ever before." ( )
  juliais_bookluvr | Mar 9, 2023 |
Little too history heavy in the beginning for me, otherwise a good read. ( )
  awesomejen2 | Jun 21, 2022 |
I liked the premise but it was too academic for me. ( )
  RakishaBPL | Sep 24, 2021 |
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Epigraph
Nelly Bly: "What do you think the new woman will be?"
Susan B. Anthony: "She'll be free." -1896
Dedication
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I always hated it when my heroines got married. -Introduction
The contemporary wave of single women was building in the very same years that I was heading off to college. -Chapter One
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"In a provocative, groundbreaking work, National Magazine Award­-finalist Rebecca Traister, "the most brilliant voice on feminism in this country" (Anne Lamott), traces the history of unmarried women in America who, through social, political, and economic means, have radically shaped our nation. For legions of women, living single isn't news; it's life. In 2009, the award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister started All the Single Ladies--a book she thought would be a work of contemporary journalism--about the twenty-first century phenomenon of the American single woman. It was the year the proportion of American women who were married dropped below fifty percent; and the median age of first marriages, which had remained between twenty and twenty-two years old for nearly a century (1890-1980), had risen dramatically to twenty-seven. But over the course of her vast research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women, Traister discovered a startling truth: the phenomenon of the single woman in America is not a new one. And historically, when women were given options beyond early heterosexual marriage, the results were massive social change--temperance, abolition, secondary education, and more. Today, only twenty percent of Americans are wed by age twenty-nine, compared to nearly sixty percent in 1960. The Population Reference Bureau calls it a "dramatic reversal." All the Single Ladies is a remarkable portrait of contemporary American life and how we got here, through the lens of the single American woman. Covering class, race, sexual orientation, and filled with vivid anecdotes from fascinating contemporary and historical figures, All the Single Ladies is destined to be a classic work of social history and journalism. Exhaustively researched, brilliantly balanced, and told with Traister's signature wit and insight, this book should be shelved alongside Gail Collins's When Everything Changed"--

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