By Marion Winik
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Rebeca Traister’s new book, “All The Single Ladies” paints an upbeat portrait of empowered women and the unmarried life, concluding with a call for policy changes to support “the epoch of single women that’s upon us.” For her portrait of this “dramatic reversal,” Traister interviewed 100 women, and 30 of their stories are woven through the text in some detail.
The stereotype of single women that has them elbowing each other out of the way to catch the bouquet at a wedding is fading. Today, you’re more likely to see that posse rocking the dance floor to the Beyonce anthem for which Rebecca Traister’s new book is named. Employing the tools of social history and narrative journalism, “All The Single Ladies” paints an upbeat portrait of the unmarried life, concluding with a call for policy changes to support “the epoch of single women that’s upon us.”
Traister traces the trend of happy singlehood back through American history to its pre-Colonial roots in England. In 1563, she reports, the House of Lords petitioned Queen Elizabeth I to marry ASAP. The queen refused, proclaiming, “I have long since made choice of a husband, the kingdom of England.” In private, she is said to have put it more bluntly: better “beggar-woman and single” than “queen and married.”
In the 16th century, a queen was the rare woman who could support herself without a husband. But as of 2010, Traister reports, the playing field had changed. American women now hold the majority of all jobs, including 51 percent of management positions; about a third of the nation’s doctors are female, and 45 percent of its lawyers. This economic situation supports the startling statistic at the basis of Traister’s book:
Only 20 percent of Americans are married by age 29, compared to nearly 60 percent in 1960.