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No Stopping Us Now: A History of Older Women in America

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A lively, fascinating, eye-opening look at women and aging in America, by the beloved New York Times columnist. "You're not getting older, you're getting better," or so promised the famous 1970's ad--for women's hair dye. Americans have always had a complicated relationship with aging: embrace it, deny it, defer it--and women have been on the front lines of the battle, A lively, fascinating, eye-opening look at women and aging in America, by the beloved New York Times columnist. "You're not getting older, you're getting better," or so promised the famous 1970's ad--for women's hair dye. Americans have always had a complicated relationship with aging: embrace it, deny it, defer it--and women have been on the front lines of the battle, willingly or not. In her lively social history of American women and aging, acclaimed New York Times columnist Gail Collins illustrates the ways in which age is an arbitrary concept that has swung back and forth over the centuries. From Plymouth Rock (when a woman was considered marriageable if "civil and under fifty years of age"), to a few generations later, when they were quietly retired to elderdom once they had passed the optimum age for reproduction, to recent decades when freedom from striving in the workplace and caretaking at home is often celebrated, to the first female nominee for president, American attitudes towards age have been a moving target. Gail Collins gives women reason to expect the best of their golden years.


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A lively, fascinating, eye-opening look at women and aging in America, by the beloved New York Times columnist. "You're not getting older, you're getting better," or so promised the famous 1970's ad--for women's hair dye. Americans have always had a complicated relationship with aging: embrace it, deny it, defer it--and women have been on the front lines of the battle, A lively, fascinating, eye-opening look at women and aging in America, by the beloved New York Times columnist. "You're not getting older, you're getting better," or so promised the famous 1970's ad--for women's hair dye. Americans have always had a complicated relationship with aging: embrace it, deny it, defer it--and women have been on the front lines of the battle, willingly or not. In her lively social history of American women and aging, acclaimed New York Times columnist Gail Collins illustrates the ways in which age is an arbitrary concept that has swung back and forth over the centuries. From Plymouth Rock (when a woman was considered marriageable if "civil and under fifty years of age"), to a few generations later, when they were quietly retired to elderdom once they had passed the optimum age for reproduction, to recent decades when freedom from striving in the workplace and caretaking at home is often celebrated, to the first female nominee for president, American attitudes towards age have been a moving target. Gail Collins gives women reason to expect the best of their golden years.

30 review for No Stopping Us Now: A History of Older Women in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Fazio

    Highly disappointed in this book in which I once heavily anticipated reading and enjoying. Not only was the writing somewhat of a cheap Wikipedia page, but the women selected to be represented in this book felt more of a political statement and standpoint than a well thought out, empowering book about older women representing generations throughout American history. After finishing this book, I shouldn't know more about the author and where she stands on the political spectrum than about the Highly disappointed in this book in which I once heavily anticipated reading and enjoying. Not only was the writing somewhat of a cheap Wikipedia page, but the women selected to be represented in this book felt more of a political statement and standpoint than a well thought out, empowering book about older women representing generations throughout American history. After finishing this book, I shouldn't know more about the author and where she stands on the political spectrum than about the women that were supposed to be represented and showcased. There were hundreds of great women, leaders and activists that could have been showcased in this book. Patti Smith, Madonna, Ella Fitzgerald, I'd even go as far of a reach as Taylor Swift, but Gail Collins omitted any musical influence in the book. Furthermore, I fail to see how Michelle Obama's fitness classes have more of a cultural impact than those of say... Mary Shelley and her classic "Frankenstein," Anne Frank, Betsy Ross, even Chanel. If you're going to throw Hillary Clinton in there as one of the most inspiring and influential women in America, toss in an article about Monica Lewinsky too, currently she's overseeing anti-bullying campaigns, that's influential, right? Objectiveness was NOT on Gail Collins' radar while creating this book. I was highly disappointed with this book as I anticipated a broad range of women, empowering and influencing America. Not the single-minded opinions of an older women whom so desperately desires to make a political statement. This was a Goodreads giveaway win, and I can honestly say, I'm happy it wasn't an ARC because now I can sell it to my used bookstore without having it rejected. Although, I wouldn't blame them if they still refused to take it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    I was a Goodreads First- Reads Winner and I loved this book for so many reasons. I recently turned 40 and I have become much more aware to the many ways in which my life has simultaneously become so much better and I've started to become ignored by general society. Olga Tokarczuk talked about us becoming invisible after 40, and I have been starting to believe her. This book helps to put a bit of context onto that point of view, with information related to women who (sometimes after the grand age I was a Goodreads First- Reads Winner and I loved this book for so many reasons. I recently turned 40 and I have become much more aware to the many ways in which my life has simultaneously become so much better and I've started to become ignored by general society. Olga Tokarczuk talked about us becoming invisible after 40, and I have been starting to believe her. This book helps to put a bit of context onto that point of view, with information related to women who (sometimes after the grand age of 30) went forth and became leaders at home and nationally. This is an American-centric view of older women, so there are our early national feminine heroines to pull from; Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, Martha Washington, etc. though those in the cinema become more pronounced in later years (though perhaps that is a reflection of our cinema obsessed culture than a lake of contemporary heroines). I really appreciated the parts about how the economy at times created certain aspects of women's desirability (thinness/stockiness) instead of claims for "healthiness". I loved reading about how policy was changed by older women and ultimately how the realities of women have changed as a result of divorce, male frailty, and the family unit as a whole. I'm going to get all my friends to read this as I enjoyed it so much.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Corin

    Engaging and inspiring. Recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan Priddy

    Anecdotal passages are a delightful review of women's live from the nineteenth century to today through the experiences and words of specific historical women. Collins possesses a lively voice on the page and the book was a pleasant read, divided into chapters by decade, and each chapter divided by subheadings titled with direct quotes from someone of the period. She makes occasional course corrections—reminding readers that some of the options available to affluent elderly people are not within Anecdotal passages are a delightful review of women's live from the nineteenth century to today through the experiences and words of specific historical women. Collins possesses a lively voice on the page and the book was a pleasant read, divided into chapters by decade, and each chapter divided by subheadings titled with direct quotes from someone of the period. She makes occasional course corrections—reminding readers that some of the options available to affluent elderly people are not within the reach of "some" (most) Americans. A hundred years ago, when the elderly were no longer able to work, women were more likely to be welcomed into the homes of their adult children as child-minders and light-work domestics. Men were not so welcome. This is one reason retirement was harder for men than women. A couple of paragraphs remarked on how suicide rates among the elderly dropped abruptly as Social Security and Medicare systems came online. (I might have wished for more about this.) The thesis for the book is that women are people capable of doing great things with their lives right up until shortly before they die. Collins provides abundant evidence through quotations, advertising, and the lives of real women. Many nineteenth and early twentieth century women continued to work for social and political justice—often into their 70s or even 80s—and were inspiring almost to the point of being depressing. I feel guilty for retiring at 66. Despite the fussing about what is or is not "old" or "elderly" with statistics and experts and pop culture each given their contradictory opinions toward the end of this book, I will say I am "old." Pages of review of claims that 40 is the new 30 or 70 is the new 50, the shift from anecdote-centered reporting to statistics toward the end mearly cost this book a star here. Rachel Carson was missing, and she is clearly a poster child for several of the issues Collins covers so effectively in this book: women who sacrifice their lives for the sake of family members (parents and later a nephew); women who are dismissed for gender, age, etc.; and women who take up a new cause/occupation after menopause. Carson had been a marine biologist working for the government and a creative nonfiction writer when she found a cause no one else was willing to undertake—exposing the egregious abuses of the chemical industry. Chemists told her they did not dare speak out because the corporations would ruin them. They ruined Carson instead. Collins does a great job of unearthing ghastly pop wisdom. Here's one she might have missed: "The man chases her until she catches him" was a popular saying in my youth based on the assumption that only women benefitted from marriage. I would have hoped for some mention that in the last century men who were married lived longer and subjectively happier lives than their bachelor peers. The reverse was true for women. However we define age, aging, and the aged, people should not allow others to limit their choices of action and advancement. There is a limit to what one book can cover, even or perhaps especially one so meticulously documented as this one. This was a better overview of the decades around the turn of the last century than I have found in any textbook. I received this book as a Giveaway, but would have bought it, and been grateful to have read it without that perk. I thank the publishers.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rkrynak

    This book had a really great message. It included much information with examples and documentation. It is a nonfiction read. However, it could have been much more enjoyable to read with a more engaging style.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    A fun fast paced overview of lives of women in English colonies, and United States. I’m not sure if the history will stick but it’s a fun read. I’ve always been a fan if Gail Collins. I enjoyed reading it a lot. It’s chocked full of facts and stories.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This may be more information than I want or need to know on the subject. Still undecided how I feel about the current moment for older women. Hard enough to decide how I feel on a given day about being an older woman.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nichola Gutgold

    Another great Gail Collins read. When Everything Changed is my favorite, but this one is a close second, especially since we have a 70 year old female presidential front runner. I forgot that Margaret Chase Smith lost her senate seat due to ageism and there are many anecdotal facts about women's lives I simply never read before. Another gem!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Gail Collins is my favorite NYT op-ed columnist, bar none. Her columns are always smart, funny, and incisive. The same is true of her new book, a historical overview of the place of older women in American society. It's extremely well researched and I learned a lot, and Collins's wry sense of humor shines through. At times it seems as though she wanted to make sure she inserted every interesting historical tidbit she found in her research, but by the end I appreciated the breadth of the tale Gail Collins is my favorite NYT op-ed columnist, bar none. Her columns are always smart, funny, and incisive. The same is true of her new book, a historical overview of the place of older women in American society. It's extremely well researched and I learned a lot, and Collins's wry sense of humor shines through. At times it seems as though she wanted to make sure she inserted every interesting historical tidbit she found in her research, but by the end I appreciated the breadth of the tale told.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Judi

    I really enjoyed reading this. Great information written in a most entertaining, readable way, and presented some facts I didn't know and others which, although I knew them, were presented in a fresh way.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    This is an much needed history that explores the role of women over time in the United States. It is well writtten and engaging.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    I liked this book. I'm 41 so I dont really feel "older" just yet however I relate in the sense that I think in our society 20-30 year olds are often portrayed in movies & media as beauty standards. I felt this book was encouraging and inspiring. I liked that the author uses various famous women as examples of accomplished and yes, beautiful, women in society. There is definitely a lot to ponder and contemplate about gender, ageism etc. Well done. I received this as a Goodreads Giveaway in I liked this book. I'm 41 so I dont really feel "older" just yet however I relate in the sense that I think in our society 20-30 year olds are often portrayed in movies & media as beauty standards. I felt this book was encouraging and inspiring. I liked that the author uses various famous women as examples of accomplished and yes, beautiful, women in society. There is definitely a lot to ponder and contemplate about gender, ageism etc. Well done. I received this as a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    There's a lot of good stuff in this book, and it would be great for young people (both women and men) to read, but I'm afraid the misleading title will scare them away. Gail Collins' latest book is really a cultural history of adult women in America with the "older" theme forced onto it. "Older" in the book can mean anything from older than 25 to 65+ and many of the women mentioned in the book (maybe even most) were younger than 60 at the time of their exploits/comments. The actual title (not the There's a lot of good stuff in this book, and it would be great for young people (both women and men) to read, but I'm afraid the misleading title will scare them away. Gail Collins' latest book is really a cultural history of adult women in America with the "older" theme forced onto it. "Older" in the book can mean anything from older than 25 to 65+ and many of the women mentioned in the book (maybe even most) were younger than 60 at the time of their exploits/comments. The actual title (not the one on Goodreads) is No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History, which I guess means somebody changed it because "adventures" sounded more exciting than "history." The book is not so much about daring deeds as it is about changes in the way our culture has perceived and treated women. There is a lot of focus on women in movies and television, on beauty standards (especially hair dye and plastic surgery) and fashion. Gail Collins takes us from corsets to bloomers to pantsuits. Did you know: When the Mary Tyler Moore Show came out, Mary was considered a "spinster" at 30. A woman member first wore pants on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1969, but it wasn't until 1993 that it happened in the Senate. And a favorite: "When the '60s began, only about 7 percent of American women dyed their hair. Within a decade. the practice was so common the government stopped putting hair color on passports." None of the women get really in-depth treatment in an overview like this, but there is enough to let us know why we should remember Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Chase Smith and be grateful for Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Of course most of us who actually are older women remember a lot of the things mentioned in this book and don't necessarily need to be reminded.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aarti

    I loved Gail Collins' other books on women's roles throughout history, though it has been some years since I read them. I enjoyed this one for the most part, except that it was so, so focused on white women's experiences, particularly rich, white women's experiences. It was not universal at all. Also, even though it has been quite a while since I read America's Women and When Everything Changed, it felt to me like there was quite a bit of overlap. I get it, Margaret Chase Smith was amazing, but I loved Gail Collins' other books on women's roles throughout history, though it has been some years since I read them. I enjoyed this one for the most part, except that it was so, so focused on white women's experiences, particularly rich, white women's experiences. It was not universal at all. Also, even though it has been quite a while since I read America's Women and When Everything Changed, it felt to me like there was quite a bit of overlap. I get it, Margaret Chase Smith was amazing, but what about Shirley Chisolm? Or Dolores Huerta? Ida B. Wells? What about some LGBTQ rights activists? Or just working class or middle class women, who may not be famous? These women also did a lot of work (and got old), but they barely get a mention. I understand that this is a wide-ranging book that is more popular history than something very in-depth, but I very much felt the lack, and it did not feel like as full and robust a history as it could have been because is those misses.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I had this book on hold at the library for months and was very much looking forward to it. The content is excellent. Unfortunately, the writing and general organization of the material didn't live up. Collins isn't nearly as witty as she thinks she is and much of the book are quotes from NY Times colleagues. She also has an odd obsession with hair coloring and it pops up every few pages. The content isn't particularly well organized, lots of repetition and hopping around. I'm not a fan of I had this book on hold at the library for months and was very much looking forward to it. The content is excellent. Unfortunately, the writing and general organization of the material didn't live up. Collins isn't nearly as witty as she thinks she is and much of the book are quotes from NY Times colleagues. She also has an odd obsession with hair coloring and it pops up every few pages. The content isn't particularly well organized, lots of repetition and hopping around. I'm not a fan of Collin's OpEd column and haven't read any other books she's written. Now I'm sure I won't. All that said, it's worth the read if you can put up with mediocre writing. There's no denying the amazing accomplishments of so many of the 'older' women profiled. I learned a lot, and it made me grateful to all those who have come before me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Judith

    No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History is an American reading adventure. Collins’s wit and her research take us from the struggles of pioneer women, few of whom survived farm life into old age at 35, to the struggles of our American contemporaries, whose life expectancy has recently begun to decline, especially in rural areas. The way Collins tells it, the adventures of many mature women, from Annie Oakely at 37, to Betty White, now 98, are as engaging as those who No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History is an American reading adventure. Collins’s wit and her research take us from the struggles of pioneer women, few of whom survived farm life into old age at 35, to the struggles of our American contemporaries, whose life expectancy has recently begun to decline, especially in rural areas. The way Collins tells it, the adventures of many mature women, from Annie Oakely at 37, to Betty White, now 98, are as engaging as those who made history for us all, the suffragists, the second wave, the female politicians who persist despite the sexist commentary that follows every woman in the public eye. Collins does not stop short of the Trump era, but arms the reader with plenty of heroines with whom to face the future.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    At 33, I do not believe I am the correct demographic for this book, but I do look forward to being an older woman in the future. In general, this is a collection of stories of "older" women. "Older" depends on the era- at some points in the book, it means women in their 30s and other times, it's 80s/90s. It ended up being a history of women in general in America, leaving out teens and 20-somethings. It leans liberal, but includes conservative women politicians. Collins tries to include non-white At 33, I do not believe I am the correct demographic for this book, but I do look forward to being an older woman in the future. In general, this is a collection of stories of "older" women. "Older" depends on the era- at some points in the book, it means women in their 30s and other times, it's 80s/90s. It ended up being a history of women in general in America, leaving out teens and 20-somethings. It leans liberal, but includes conservative women politicians. Collins tries to include non-white women and does better earlier in the book with that. It doesn't go particularly deep- it would be a good stepping stone of a book if you wanted to go and read more about a particular woman.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Tornello

    This book offers an interesting look at how America's views on aging women have changed over time. It offered both general overviews and specific examples of individual women. The book focuses on different areas, such as politics, careers, popular entertainment, and beauty standards. It also gives me hope that older women will continue to be more accepted in society as time goes on. I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. Yay!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Fascinating history of older women in the good ol' USA, from pioneer days when women were old at 40-something (no longer having babies) to the flapper days (when 19 was getting over-the-hill) and on to current times (optimistically, with more opportunities). Enjoyed the stories about the exceptional women who created change. I'm hopeful for future generations, women of color, and the growth of the middle class, but not as optimistic given the levels of poverty in America.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    This was an interesting idea and perfectly time as I got it just days before my birthday. I liked the stories but they didn't feel very diverse and the writing was a little rough for me. But it is encouraging and a good topic to keep discussing. *I received a free copy of this book through the goodreads first reads program but all opinions are mine alone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    I actually haven't quite finished this (had to return it to the library), but close enough to give a review. Excellent writing--both humor and historical interest. Interesting to see how the view of "older women"--as well as the definition of said--as changed through the years. In short, a very enjoyable look at a topic that I think has not been much addressed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    This book was really interesting, and I learned a lot. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been better organized and edited. A lot of space was devoted to profiles of specific famous older women, which could have been shortened, and the organization within each chapter was really scattered.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    Accomplishments of older women through American history. There’s plenty of Gail Collins’ typical sarcastic humor, which I concluded I like more in her columns than in an entire book. Most of the women she writes about were familiar, but many stories were new, plus trends I had not considered. That said, the section about pantsuits went on WAY too long.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jillian Greenawalt

    This was a fascinating read - a lens of American history we rarely peek through. I don't think you have to be "older" to get something out of it. I felt it helped add perspective to some modern day events, knowing how hard and long the road has been for American women over the age of...30. Read for book club, great discussion starter!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    It wasn’t groundbreaking or anything, but I’m happy that she did this research and that there’s a market for this book. It felt like a pretty standard US cultural history overview but skewed toward the wives of the major political figures who would usually be the focus, and other women doing cool things too.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sue Watson

    Her story! I very much enjoyed reading history centering on the female side. Some things I knew, but I was happy to find gems throughout of people I had never heard of or of things I didn't know about some of our more noted history makers. The one change I would make is to put pictures at the end of each chapter so that we can see them just after having read about them

  28. 5 out of 5

    Heather Larcombe

    There really is no good time to be female in history. Much less female and old. But it's not a story of the evil patriarchs or the awful oppressing males. Just a story about this is how things were and how things are, and what the were contributing factors in the changing story of what it is to be humans muddling through existing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Linden

    The book looks at the changing roles of older women in American society, from colonial days to the present. There were quit a few research assistants listed in the acknowledgements, which made me wonder how much of the book Gail Collins herself had actually written and researched.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Excellent, excellent story of women aging from colonial times to the present. Each chapter was so interesting. I can’t tell one chapter was better than another, but I think everyone should read the last chapter. Insightful.

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