978-0-7139-9446-9 / 9780713994469

Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties


Publisher:Viking UK



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About the book:

Sheila Rowbotham is a social and intellectual historian of the first rank, as those familiar with her two recent publications--A Century of Women: The History of Women in Britain and the United States and the collection of essays Threads Through Time--will know. Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties recounts the story of Rowbotham's political radicalisation and the questioning of what it meant to be a woman long before Women's Liberation surfaced as a movement.

Rowbotham's first excursion into the memoir business sharply contrasts with the "theorising" of one's experience, which has become common fare amongst the academic left and of multi-denominational feminism in recent years, because this is also a funny, eventful and often poignant personal story. Whether speaking of the death of her mother, the quick-witted rape escape, the value of mascara for ginger eyelashes or telling stories of love and sex, she rarely strikes a false sentimental or sensational note. Virginia Woolf once said of public writing and speaking that "One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold ... one can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker." This is the way Rowbotham goes about her task and one of the reasons why the result is so reader-friendly, as she describes, "by describing how I thought as I thought and did what I did in personal terms, I hope to bring some of the dreams of the 60s back into view."

What has been lost from view, for Rowbotham, is the knowledge that the women's liberation approach to politics was rooted in the ideas and assumptions of the social movements of the 1960s--in particular the American New Left. "Over time people forgot their origins and they were called in a political shorthand simply the 'feminist' way of organising." In short, the connections between ideas and movements has been buried. Those students short on intellectual history but enchanted by cultural studies, French philosophers or feminist theory in its various guises need this more than they realise. To get the most out of this book read it alongside Threads Through Time. --Larry Brown

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