Alison Wolf traces the journey women have taken from the kitchen the the classrooms, courtrooms and beyond. Though laden with statistics and history this doesn’t bring on yawns, instead it makes you consider your place in the great machine of progress and wonder at the lives of the brave ladies who came before you, and more importantly, consider the implications for the future.

From start to finish Wolf uses Jane Austen as an example of the progress women have made (admittedly she focuses on the West, but does make an effort to include other regions of the world). We’ve moved from the limits of the house to the (almost) limitless world men have been inhabiting. I think the main point of her research is to show that though the pay and number may not be equal (YET!) we are getting there when it comes to gender. Through her multitude of examples it became easy to see that there is also a major paradigm shift when it comes to how more recent generations view equality in that the younger ladies tend to have a more limitless view, rather than focusing on one campaign.

Though the book covers some heavy, often complex topics (education, discrimination, childcare, self-care, politics, economics, social constructs, etc.) I have to say the fantastic transitions and segues speak to the solid writing skills of the author. This book throws information at you, and not in a way that makes you cringe and have flashbacks of college lecture halls, but instead resembles an engaging conversation between pals that can’t wait to share all they know.

Wolf flits between statistics, explaining why Hilary lost the primary, why “domestic service” has grown, how charities have been negatively affected by working women and how “successful” child-rearing is based so much on a mother’s priorities and career path.

It’s not a light read, but I highly recommend for anyone interested in the history and growth of women getting an education and making their own way in the world, regardless of what society dictates.

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