In Pursuit of Equity

In Pursuit of Equity : Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America

3.75 (61 ratings by Goodreads)

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In this volume, Alice Kessler-Harris explores the transformation of some of the United States' most significant social policies. Tracing changing ideals of fairness from the 1920s to the 1970s, she shows how a deeply embedded set of beliefs, or "gendered imagination" shaped seemingly neutral social legislation to limit the freedom and equality of women. Law and custom generally sought to protect women from exploitation, and sometimes from employment itself; but at the same time, they assigned the most important benefits to wage work. Most policy makers (even female ones) assumed from the beginning that women would not be breadwinners. Kessler-Harris shows how ideas about what was fair for men as well as women influenced old age and unemployment insurance, fair labor standards, Federal income tax policy, and the new discussion of women's rights that emerged after World War II. Only in the 1960s and 1970s did the gendered imagination begin to alter-yet the process is far from complete.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 152.4 x 231.14 x 22.86mm | 566.99g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0195158024
  • 9780195158021
  • 1,557,227

Review quote

"Anyone interested in envisioning what 'liberty and justice for all' might really look like will benefit from learning this book's robust concept of economic citizenship. The long tradition of sex differentiation in law and policy-and the forces enabling it to be re-seen as sex discrimination-gain stunning clarity through Kessler-Harris's measured, probing, insistent analysis. She reopens assumptions about what is 'normal' and what is 'in the public interest' in
matters of gender and work and family."-Nancy Cott, Sterling Professor of History and American Studies at Yale, and author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation "In one of the most brilliant books of recent years, Alice Kessler-Harris explains how modern feminism has been grounded in the changing meanings of work. Formidable research and eloquent writing make it clear why gender difference as a rationale for distributing jobs, taxes, and entitlements came to a screeching crash in our own lifetimes. This is a book for everyone who cares about social policy and democratic citizenship."-Linda K. Kerber, University of Iowa,
author of No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship "Alice Kessler-Harris's brilliant research and analyses create a heartening, galvanizing alternative to these cruel times. Armed by this splendid book, we have the tools finally to move beyond America's disgraceful economic traditions of employment injustice, rampant poverty, contempt for women-and on to gender equity, empowerment, and dignity for all."-Blanche Wiesen Cook, University Distinguished Professor, John Jay College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, author
of Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1933 and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Defining Years, 1933-1938 "In Pursuit of Equity is the latest testament to Alice Kessler-Harris' original scholarship. Professor Kessler-Harris brilliantly documents the often subtle ways that women have been historically denied economic citizenship in the United States. This book enhanced my awareness of the impact of what she calls 'the gendered imagination' in the shaping of policies that lead to enduring forms of economic inequality."-William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda
L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University, author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor "Kessler-Harris's cautious optimism about our shared economic future is hard to resist."-Publishers Weekly "In Pursuit of Equity is a sensitive and illuminating exploration of the manifold ways in which gendered habits of mind shape social action. It is a contribution not just to the history of the past but to the history of the future." -Arthur Schlesinger Jr. "Through her painstaking examination of major legislation, Alice Kessler-Harris creates a framework for understanding not only the past but also the struggles women face today."-The Women's Review of Books "A vigorous historical analysis of the 20-century U.S. social policies that produced differential access to resources for men and women.... Kessler-Harris succeeds in showing how gender has shaped the rules by which we live, how gendered habits of mind have been inscribed in social policies that continue to frame our lives, and how, once these habits are embedded in the legislative, judicial, and policymaking mechanisms of society, only such a critical, penetrating
analysis as this can challenge them and begin to advance the cause of modern feminism."-Library Journal
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About Alice Kessler-Harris

Alice Kessler-Harris is the R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History at Columbia University, where she also teaches in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. A leading advocate of women's rights in the United States, she has been a featured speaker at a special White House symposium and an expert guest on the PBS documentary "The Measured Century." She is the author of Out to Work, A Woman's Wage, and Women Have
Always Worked.
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Rating details

61 ratings
3.75 out of 5 stars
5 25% (15)
4 41% (25)
3 23% (14)
2 8% (5)
1 3% (2)
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