Updated to cover the 25 years since it was first published, this brilliant and wonderfully written women's history classic exposes the myths told to women in the name of science.
Since the the nineteenth century, "experts" have been telling women how to take care of themselves. Generations of highly respected mainstream physicians have proclaimed most aspects of women's lives an indication of weakness, from menstruation (illness requiring seclusion) to pregnancy (a disabling disease), to reading or intense conversation (a hazard to women's health). Even domesticity, the prescription for a safe environment for women, became a domain for legions of "scientific" experts. Ehrenreich and English have never lost faith in science itself, and as women enter the medical and scientific professions in great numbers biases agains women are diluted. Yet experts continue to use pseudo-science to tell women how to live, and the revised edition of For Her Own Good provides a needed and indispensable dose of informed skepticism.
This brilliant, panoramic history regales us with the hilarious—and deadly serious —advice that male authorities have handed down to women for two centuries. In their deeply thoughtful afterword, too, the authors offer a highly astute moral accounting of the gains and losses for women in the last three decades—and a vital “heads up” for the future. A must read.” —Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Time Bind
“The publication of For Her Own Good could not be more timely, in light of the debacle of HRT, restrictions on sex education, and the intensification of the "culture wars." In this brilliant, pathbreaking work, Ehrenreich and English take us through the fascinating and horrifying history of scientific and expert advice to women. This book should be required reading for anyone who gives, or takes advice.” —Juliet Schor, author of Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
“In the name of benevolent concern, women have been subject to all kinds of nonsense and bad advice. Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English capture the contradictions in a wry, fast-moving history that is as startling today as it was when it was first published thirty years ago. With a new preface and epilogue that remind us of how far women have come in three decades, and how much work remains to be done, this feminist classic belongs on every bookshelf.” —Julianne Malveaux , author of Unfinished Business: A Democrat and A Republican Take on the Ten Most Important Issues Women Face
“A landmark work: It changes everything one believed before about doctors, scientists, and all other kinds of patriarchal experts. The most important work on women since The Feminine Mystique.” —Claudia Dreifus, author of Seizing Our Bodies, The Politics of Women's Health Care
“For Her Own Good gives us a perspective on female history, the history of American medicine and psychology, and the history of childhood, unlike any we have had. I have read it with mounting intellectual excitement, underlining, marking pages, arguing form start to finish with its authors in my head. It is humanly and theoretically fascinating, written with clarity, wit, and verve and with a deep concern for the future.” —Adrienne Rich
“For Her Own Good . . . uses rationality informed by moral insight to meet the 'experts' head-on.” —Boston Sunday Globe
“This brilliant, pioneering book is, alas, more needed than ever. Happily, it is more useful, reliable, galvanizing than ever. Note to all the world’s women: with Ehrenreich and English in hand, we are fully prepared to march back to our future.” —Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt
Barbara Ehrenreich has written and lectured widely on subjects related to health care and women's issues. She has contributed articles to The Nation, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review, among others. She is the author of Re-making Love: The Feminization of Sex (with Elizabeth Gess and Gloria Jacobs); Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War; Fear of Failing: The Inner Life of the Middle Class; Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy (co-edited with Arlie Russell Hochschild); The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment; and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.
Deirdre English is a writer, filmmaker, and teacher. She has taught women's studies at the State University of New York. Her award-winning films D.C.III and The Year of the Tiger have been widely distributed. She lives in San Francisco.
Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English are the authors of three classic studies of women and health care: Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers; Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness; and The American Health Empire: Power, Profits and Politics.