Monday, January 23, 2017

It's Up to the Women: The spirit requires cultivation

I received a copy of It's Up to the Women from NetGalley in exchange for a review, which was pretty swell.

And the timing of this review is mostly coincidental, but doesn't stop it from being a nice follow up to the INCREDIBLE, INSANE, INSPIRING turnout from the Women's Marches around the world.

It's Up to the Women is a collection of essays by Eleanor Roosevelt originally published in 1933 when the US was in the midst of the Great Depression. It's advice for what women can do to make things better for everyone.

On the one hand, it shows its age with a strong focus on the domestic sphere and a section of recipes that includes things like hot prune juice and boiling pasta for 25 minutes*.

On the other hand, there's a lot here that made me do a double take. Like I said, there is a focus on the domestic sphere but Roosevelt advocates for it to be looked up as a profession, with the same level of respect. She also doesn't limit women to the home and kitchen, but talks about women being doctors and lawyers and scientists. She talks about how families shouldn't be thrown into financial despair because they have to go to the doctor. She talks about how women may keep working after marriage out of necessity, not just economic necessity but because working may give her a sense of purpose or allows her to express her personality in a way she can't as a wife and mother and that this is a good thing. And she advocates equal pay for equal work. And for regular vacation and working hours

This is a product of the Depression, so naturally there is a lot about how money doesn't bring happiness and the suggestion to look to things that are inexpensive or free, the importance of creating and sticking to a budget.

This is of course not to say that the book is perfect. Class and sexism are very lightly touched on. Race not at all. Institutionalized racism/sexism/classism is basically ignored. She talks at one point about how there are no female politicians not because of sexism but because women haven't been allowed in politics long enough to gain the experience necessary for political office. I suppose this is another way the book shows its age.

But ultimately I enjoyed the book and highlighted a ton of quotes. So why don't I share some of those now?
The price of a garment is not always indicative of its real worth nor is it indicative of whether you are buying something that has been made under sweat shop conditions or not. This is a phase which even the poorest, in planning a clothes budget, should consider, for no matter what we can afford to buy, we cannot afford to buy at the expense of the health and strength of our fellow human beings.
What would have seemed to one generation absolutely immoral will to another generation simply seem a matter of custom and manners and therefore in a changing world we must bear in mind that we cannot be too sure that ideals which have served us in the past are to continue to serve us in the future.
A woman, just like a man, may have a great gift for some particular thing. That does not mean that she must give up the joy of marrying and having a home and children. It simply means, when we set them in opposition to each other, that we haven't as yet grown accustomed to the fact that women's lives must be adjusted and arranged for in just the same way that men's lives are. Women may have to sacrifice certain things at times - so do men.
Fourteen years have now gone by and everywhere people are asking, "What have the women done with the vote?" I often wonder why they don't ask the men the same question, but I realize that it is a high compliment to women that evidently they were expected to bring about some marked change in political conditions.
I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. It was a lot more relevant than I gave it credit for and I'm very glad I got a chance to read it. It's up to the women, indeed.

Gif rating:
*Though I don't know if that last one is its age or just nonsense, cos I could feel my grandmother rolling in her grave when I read that line, and she lived through the Great Depression. So really, no excuse.

Title quote from location 990

Roosevelt, Eleanor. It's Up to the Women. Nation Books, 2017. Originally published 1933. NetGalley