You know about Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Phyllis Schlafly. But have you ever heard of Helen Andelin and the “other” women’s movement?
If not, and you’re fascinated by the changing roles of women in 20th century America, this book is a must read!
Get ready for some controversy…
Helen Andelin and the Fascinating Womanhood Movement, by Julie Neuffer, chronicles the rise of housewife-turned-media-sensation Helen Andelin, as she formulated, and then spread, her distinctive brand of marriage advice across the country.
In 1961, after languishing in a lackluster marriage for 20 years, Andelin had an epiphany. She discovered a set of women’s advice booklets from the 1920s, and began applying the principles she found in them to her own marriage. She experienced miraculous results. Her once difficult and disinterested husband became more loving and attentive. After saving her own marriage, Andelin, a religious woman, believed that she had been called by God to save the marriages of others. She fashioned a rough outline from the booklets and began teaching classes to local women. Soon, she had so many eager students that she began to recruit volunteer teachers. In 1963, at the urging of her growing band of followers, she wrote Fascinating Womanhood (which, to date, has sold over 3 million copies).
Unlike her feminist counterparts at the time, Andelin preached family values and urged women not to have careers, but to be good wives, mothers, and homemakers instead. She instructed women to obey their husbands instead of trying to change them. Her message exploded across the country, attracting tens of thousands of women who agreed with her. As she toured across the country spreading her message, she became a popular celebrity. She was interviewed on radio, in magazines, and appeared as a guest on popular TV shows with Larry King, Connie Chung, Barbara Walters, and Phil Donahue.
Fascinating Womanhood has been translated into more than ten foreign languages and is currently in its sixth printing. Helen Andelin died in 2009, but the conservative women’s movement that she began 50 years ago is still present today in popular advice books and marriage manuals.
Neuffer’s study of Andelin and her movement is a highly readable history of an often overlooked cross-section of American women, traditional roles, and the uncertainty and radical social changes that began in the 1960s.
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