Feminism in America

A Lesser Life: The Myth of Women's Liberation in America, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. New York: Warner Books. Illustrated. 475 pp. $10.95, paper. Beneath the glossy image of the career woman, beneath the new freedom of ``no-fault'' divorce, and beyond the dissolution of rigidly determined gender roles lies a seamier side to the lives of many women in America today that Sylvia Ann Hewlett compassionately and persuasively illuminates. American women are worse off than their Western European counterparts, particularly working mothers. One quarter of the women who work full time earn less than the poverty level. Two-thirds of American adults in poverty are women.

While some doctrinaire feminists have resented Hewlett's implication that feminism is to blame for women's new troubles, I would think that any attentive reader of this book would recognize that it is first and foremost an indictment of what society (including some feminist groups) has not done to safeguard the economic stability of families, rather than a recantation of the positive values of freedom and equality for women. This edition has a new afterword in which Hewlett cogently responds to the criticism her book engendered.

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