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On the contrary, the childfree movement that stemmed from modern feminism is all about the choice to have children.

For Her Own Good by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English - Read Online

Since Ehrenreich clearly approves of abortion in her writing, it is strange that she gets a little touchy over the choice to be a mother or not. Since the author is pro-choice, she may not have thought out the connection to those who abstain from childrearing entirely, and how they must fight charges of selfishness just as those who get an abortion fight charges of being a "murderer. I want to wave it under the nose of every person who thinks the feminist movement was a mistake. I want to yell at them, "Do you know where these doctors would put leeches on a woman because her husband could drag her in to a doctors office for an attitude adjustment?

Think of a place only her gynecologist would see - that's where they put those leeches! Some may find this a blissful life, but as history proves, it's not necessarily a healthy one for women. Jul 28, Seven rated it really liked it. Jun 22, Kristen rated it it was ok.

I absolutely loved Witches, Midwives and Nurses, so I thought this would be an expanded version of that.


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And it's true that For Her Own Good was full of interesting facts. But somehow, when I was done, I felt like I couldn't really summarize much of interest in a few words. In fact, I was quite relieved to be done so I could move on to some light fiction -- although the book was full of interesting, often shocking, facts, reading it almost felt like homework by the end.

I did dog-ear a couple of I absolutely loved Witches, Midwives and Nurses, so I thought this would be an expanded version of that. I did dog-ear a couple of interesting quotes from the book: A quote from an s Grahamian on p. Any system that teaches the sick that they can get well only through the exercise of the skill of someone else, and that they remain alive only through the tender mercies of the privileged class, has no place in nature's scheme of things, and the sooner it is abolished, the better will mankind be.

He was writing in the s: "The ideal child, he wrote, is, 'a child who never cries unless actually stuck by a pin, illustratively speaking Treat them as though they were young adults. Dress them, bathe them with care and circumspection. Let your behavior always be objective and kindly firm.

Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit on your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning. Aug 23, Rebecca rated it liked it. The book includes sections on medicine, female health and sickness, homemaking, and child-rearing, each one meticulously researched and extensively annotated. The authors' basic argument is that women have predominantly been viewed as incompetent to make their own decisions — even when it comes to their own bodies, their families, and their livelihoods — without the intervention of professional experts.

Furthermore, these experts have relied on the authority of science to convince women that the experts' misogynistic prejudices are actually objective, proven fact. One of the most interesting sections in the book was about how, starting in the s, men co-opted the practice of medicine from women, who, through their activities as midwives and lay healers, had been their families' and communities' primary healers for centuries — in fact, healing was viewed as part of the whole package of child-rearing and running a household.

Then, with the rise of professionalization, distinct academic disciplines, the capitalist market, and other factors, men began to take over medicine as a gentlemanly, aristocratic profession. In many cases, the so-called cure was far worse than the original disease, as in the case of a poison called calomel, which medical men commonly prescribed for ailments as minor as fever and stomachache and whose side effects included the erosion of the patient's teeth and jaw bone.

In order to keep the new medical profession selective and exclusive, the doctors went on a woman-bashing spree to discredit the much more liked and trusted female lay healers who saw healing as a community activity rather than a generator of wealth and who actually relied on observation and experiment to arrive at cures that truly worked. There is no doubt that the authors did their research while writing this book. In fact, I would say that the book read almost a bit too much like an academic paper and could have been made more accessible to the casual reader.

Nearly every page was crammed with long quotes and references, and there were a few times when the authors dug so deep into a specific issue that I had to read the back cover to remind myself what the overall argument of the book was. The authors must have realized this when they made revisions for the latest edition of the book the first edition was published in the 70s , because they added a new chapter that was a good summary of their argument and helped to give it some context, as well as some new information on how this trend has played out in the early 21st century.

I also felt a little uncertain about the authors' thesis.


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I wholeheartedly agree that paternalistic, bigoted men have no business telling women how to live their lives, especially through the deception of passing off personal opinion or small-mindedness as scientific fact. However, the authors seemed to be anti-all-experts rather than anti-bad-experts.

For Her Own Good Two Centuries of the Experts Advice to Women

It was a bit hard to tell what the authors believed at all, since the book was only a historical review of these types of trends and not really their defense of a different point of view. They made a few comments that indicated they felt nostalgic for a time when women raised their children with the help of other knowledgeable and loving women -- mothers, grandmothers, sisters, neighbors, etc.

I can see where they're coming from, and I do think it's unfortunate how isolated and self-contained most families are today, but I think that's a separate issue from whether to rely on experts or not. I'm sure that in the s, listening to the advice of a friendly midwife, whose mother had taught her everything about the healing properties of local plants, was a wise course of action, especially given the alternatives. But medicine today -- despite all its problems -- is far better and more effective than herbal tea and prayer, even if the person delivering such medicine is not as friendly or caring as a frontier midwife.


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I have no patience with "alternative" medicine that hearkens back to a time when such flimsy folk remedies were all we had access to; when I'm in pain, give me an expert. My last comment relates to the editing of this book. I am not the type of person who foams at the mouth every time I see a grammatical or editing mistake, although I do notice such mistakes whether I want to or not.

But when I'm reading a book — especially a scholarly book that the authors want us to take seriously and that has been thoroughly and professionally edited no less than twice once for each edition , I find no excuse for sloppy, distracting mistakes. Here's the way I see it: let's say you have a deep love of and knowledge of music and are proficient at playing an instrument or two.

Nevertheless, if the musician doesn't understand the way these mechanics work — if they botch the length of a quarter note, for example — you will not only notice it, but it will mar what would otherwise be a beautiful work of art. It goes from being music to being notes that are not well-played, and it spoils your enjoyment.

That's how I feel about grammar in relation to language and reading. But if you use language inexpertly by misunderstanding the purpose of a comma or botching the construction of a sentence, you have taken a thing of beauty and made it unpleasant. So let's just say someone should have read For Her Own Good more carefully before sending it to the printer.

Shelves: read-in Actually super interesting, if impossible to summarize to anyone who casually asks "so what are you reading? A tour de force through the history of the medical establishment, capitalism, psychiatry, child-rearing, feminism and modern society in general that draws a lot of really interesting connections.

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Mar 30, Charlene rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , philosophy , politics , constructs , topof-all-time , non-fiction-inequality. I read this as an undergraduate in college. Away from home and in the company of other women who were passionate about learning, I saw the world open up to me.

Reading this book alongside other books such as Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Anything in Virginia Woolf's collection, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, and others I became extremely aware of the women who fought so hard so that someday I could have an education and the possibility of equality in m I read this as an undergraduate in college. Reading this book alongside other books such as Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Anything in Virginia Woolf's collection, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, and others I became extremely aware of the women who fought so hard so that someday I could have an education and the possibility of equality in my own society.

I remember losing sleep over what I read in the pages of this book. It was shocking and horrifying. And yet, it felt like the biggest gift anyone had ever given up to that point in life. I felt something click inside me. I felt aware of my own power for the first time. This book will always hold a special place in my heart. I do wonder what I would think of it if I read it now, so many year later. LJ user pachakuti 's review: One of those books that puts into stark reality how patronizing and riddled with errors and judgement the 'advice' given to women over two centuries of American history has been.

They look at the medical industry as a whole as well as psychology and child-rearing as a whole. Oct 12, Judy rated it liked it Shelves: read-in , library-book-club.

Two Centuries of the Experts Advice to Women

Interesting history of the practice of medicine and treatment of women. As a result, "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "Mrs. Dalloway" have new meaning. I know why we were constantly have tea parties in home ec class and more understanding for the airs put on by my teacher. I always thought Freud was twisted. The end is - the woman question really is - that the human values that women were assigned to preserve expand out of the confines of private life and become the organizing principles of socie Finally! The end is - the woman question really is - that the human values that women were assigned to preserve expand out of the confines of private life and become the organizing principles of society.

A society that is organized around human neds: a society in which child raising is not dismissed as each woman's individual problem, but in which the nuturance and well-being of all children is a public priority - a society in which healing is not a commodity distributed according toi the dictates of profit but is integral to the network of community life - in which wisdom about daily life is not hoarded by experts or doled out as a commodity but is drawn from the experience of all people and freely shared among them.

The womanly values of community and caring must rise to the center as the only human principles. Nov 18, Kate rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction. I enjoy Ehrenreich and her ideas about life and work.

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In this book she gives a research-filled history of how women were seen by medical doctors, psychologists, men, ad agencies, and employers. It's almost vulgar to think of of frailty and sickness were sought-after traits in an upper-class woman. It's fascinating to see how advice on things like femininity, child-bearing and child-rearing has changed. The very tasks that women had done in the home were now accomplished in factory assembly lines. Now they were instructed to create welcoming, non-stressful environment for their husbands when they returned at the end of the day.

The gap between men and women and work and home life was widening exponentially. From there, Ehrenreich and English delve into the fields of medicine, domestic science, and mothering. It's incredible to realize that men in positions of power created a culture of female submission and then used medicine to subdue women who dared to assert any authority over their lives. It's no wonder women feel like they can't possibly do a good job raising their children when they are admonished in one decade not to baby their children and then told they are not giving them enough attention just a few years later.

While this book takes a more academic tone, I still found it incredibly interesting. At times, the biases of the authors are evident and there are moments when they seem to wonder off topic a bit.

For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts Advice to Women

While it is decidedly not a book you can speed read, it is a book that will make you reflect on the expectations placed on women both in the past and the present. Lindsey January 4, at AM. Beth January 4, at AM. Jennifer Hartling January 4, at AM. Anonymous January 5, at PM. Lindsey January 6, at PM. This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join. Home Books Society. Save For Later. Create a List.