Penn State

Barbara Sims - Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Women's Room

Author: Marilyn French

Book Description:

When I read The Women's Room in 1978 I had settled down into the stereotypical "at home" wife and mother role. I say "settled down," because the 1970s were years during which I was very much involved in self-destructive behavior often associated with that particular time in America's anti-establishment subculture. In 1978, I had married, was raising my son from an earlier teenage marriage that had ended in divorce shortly after his birth, and was pregnant with my second child. Daytime television was my main connection to the outside world because I had shut myself off from it out of fear that I would long to return to it. It was then that I saw Marilyn French interviewed by Phil Donahue, an extremely popular talk show host during that time period. What she said resonated with me at the time, and encouraged me to obtain a copy of the book. As I read the stories of French's female characters, my heart ached for women everywhere who were living out those very types of lives, and most of all, it broke into when I realized that I was one of those women. The book opened up for me a world of new ideas about the roles of women in society, and for the first time, I realized that there truly was a well-oiled machine in place to keep women from advancing beyond the patriarchal-established roles for them. The book also ignited in me a desire, long extinguished by a belief that it was simply impossible to even think about, to obtain a college degree. At the age of 35, and seven years after reading The Women's Room, I, like Mira (the main character in the book), became a non-traditional college student, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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