All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister

Book Reviews Reading

all the single ladies
All the Single Ladies by Rebecca TraisterAll the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
Published by Simon & Schuster on March 1st 2016
Genres: Non-fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Personal copy
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A nuanced investigation into the sexual, economic, and emotional lives of women in America. In a provocative, groundbreaking work, National Magazine Award finalist Rebecca Traister, “the most brilliant voice on feminism in the country” (Anne Lamott), traces the history of unmarried and late-married women in America who, through social, political, and economic means, have radically shaped our nation.


After running into a reading slump earlier this month, I was delighted when Rebecca Traister’s recent, much buzzed-about, nonfiction work was released; it definitely pulled me out of the doldrums. For those of you who may think, “well, I’m not single, and I don’t want to be single, so I’m not sure how interesting this will be,” let me assure you that you can lay those worries to rest; this is a remarkably accessible account of women’s history in our nation. 

In 1985, a study conducted by male researchers from Harvard and Yale concluded that a never-married, university-educated forty-year-old woman had only a 2.6 percent chance of ever marrying. It spurred Newsweek to publish its infamous cover story “The Marriage Crunch,” in which it made the famously inaccurate claim that single women at age forty were more likely to be killed by terrorists than to marry.

As a former student of history, I often recall an undergraduate course I took called “History of Technology;” the course was taught by the chair of the history department, a woman, and we spent some time discussing the way in which advances in technology were presented and marketed to women after World War II. Traister utilizes marketing campaigns, magazine articles, books, and interviews (both past and present) to examine the options (and lack of) that have shaped the lives of women throughout history, especially as they affect relationships and community.

Advertisers sold women and men on an old, cult-of-domesticity-era ideal: that the highest female calling was the maintenance of a domestic sanctuary for men […]. In order to care for the home, the women would rely on new products, like vacuum cleaners and washing machines, sales of which would in turn line the pockets of the husbands who ran the companies and worked in the factories that produced these goods.

While Traister does share her own story, it takes a back seat to those of women of varying ages, races, demographic backgrounds and experiences who discuss their thoughts on the changes in culture, attitude and options available to women; an incredible journey, to say the least.

Published in 1829, The Young Lady’s Book asserted that ‘Whatever situation of life a woman is placed, from her cradle to the grave, a spirit of obedience and submission, pliability of temper, and humility of mind, are required from her.’

A recent New York Times review suggested that “the material can threaten to be overwhelming at times,” but I did not experience the book in this way; instead, I often found myself reflecting on my own experiences and making connections with the women Traister interviews and the stories she presents. Even though, at the time I read this one, I was struggling to find anything capable of holding my attention, I looked forward to picking this one up each day and found myself highlighting numerous passages and then wanting to chat about them with another woman.

Marriage, in the varied ways in which it has been legally constructed over centuries, has been extremely useful in containing women and limiting their power. That usefulness has meant that social, political, medical, and cultural forces have often worked to make life outside marriage difficult.

For those of you who enjoy the format, I think this would make an excellent audio book selection; no matter how you choose to partake, I would highly recommend this one to any of my female reading friends and I hope you’ll take the time to check it out so that we can discuss further!

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About Rebecca Traister

all the single ladies

Rebecca Traister is writer at large for New York Magazine and a contributing editor at Elle. A National Magazine Award finalist, she has written about women in politics, media and entertainment from a feminist perspective for The New Republic and Salon and has also contributed to The Nation, The New York Observer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vogue, Glamour and Marie Claire. Traister’s first book, Big Girls Don’t Cry, about women and the 2008 election, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010 and the winner of the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. She lives in New York with her family. – See more at: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Rebecca-Traister/62924196#sthash.9v6y7DfH.dpuf

  • I am completely fascinated with this! As soon as I slog my way through All the Light We Cannot See (for book club!) I will be reading this! Thanks Tara.

    • Oh, I’ve never read that one, Allie; hope you are enjoying it. I’ve heard such mixed reviews; would love to know what you think. All the Single Ladies will definitely get you thinking; I hope you have a chance to read it! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • ChristinaBookAddict

    I like the sound of this one! I find non-fiction books like this to be fascinating and an audio version of this would be perfect. Thanks for putting this book on my radar and I am glad you enjoyed it!

    • Christina, I think you’d really enjoy it; the author does such a great job of incorporating both modern and past references/research, which keeps it entertaining and relatable. Thanks so much!

  • This does sound fascinating! I love the quotes you shared – especially the Newsweek one…WOW!

    • Sarah, I think you’d really enjoy it; should definitely be a possibility for your Nonfiction November list! Thanks so much!

  • Runner Sara

    I’ve been listening to this on audio book and have found it to be incredibly interesting.

    Listening I contemplate the choices I’ve made and options that would have been available at earlier times.

    • Sara, I think it’s interesting that you’ve mentioned this; I found myself thinking about my own choices, as well, and it was definitely a thought-provoking read. Thanks so much for sharing this feedback; so glad you’re enjoying it!

  • I read a book about the rise of single women in the UK after the first world war (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1096582.Singled_Out) and it was extremely interesting. I would love to read more about the topic from an American perspective. Thanks for sharing!

    • WOW! Thanks for the book recommendation, Elizabeth; that one looks fascinating, to me! I hope you get a chance to read this one; I think you would enjoy it. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Glad to hear this one is good! I have it on my phone and can’t wait to get to it – I adored her last book on the 2008 election, too.

    • I hope you enjoy it, Shannon; I was completely mesmerized! Thanks so much for stopping by; hope you have a great weekend!

  • So glad to see this- I just listened to Rebecca on NPR’s fresh Air and it was fascinating. And thanks for the advice about the audiobook- as much as I try I have trouble sticking with non-fiction but listening to it works for me.

    • Catherine, I heard that same interview!! Wasn’t it great? I was right in the middle of the book when the interview aired, but I listened away; it’s not as if there are really any “spoilers” in nonfiction, right? I hope you have the opportunity to listen to/read this one; I think you’d enjoy it. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • SO glad to know you liked this one! I’m so so so interested in it.

    • Andi, now that you have some, ahem, additional reading time (#sojealous), you should definitely read this one; I know you’re reading your own damn books…maybe I need to gift you a copy?? 😉

      • LOL, you don’t have to do that! I’ll definitely be snagging it from my library though, right alongside way too many other books, I’m sure! <3

  • Glad that you enjoyed this one!

    PS – I actually sang the song (of the same title) in my head when I saw the title of the post 😉