Now Available at or your local bookseller:A Strange Stirring

A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s

About A Strange Stirring:

Based on exhaustive research and interviews, and challenging both conservative and liberal myths about Betty Friedan, A Strange Stirring reveals how a generation of women came to realize their dissatisfaction with domestic life didn't reflect a personal inadequacy but rather a social and political injustice. Coontz examines women's changing status from the 1920s through the 1950s, compares the dilemmas of working-class and middle-class women, white and black, in the early 1960s, and illuminates the new mystiques and new possibilities facing men and women today.

Reviews and Articles about A strange Stirring

Interviews with Stephanie Coontz

Q&A with Stephanie Coontz

Coontz Press Release

Five Myths about the Feminine Mystique


"Stephanie Coontz is not just one of the most important historians in America, she is also a personal hero of mine and a brilliant writer. This book—like all her books before it—has been a marvel and education for me to behold. I am awed by the scope of this research, of this thinking, and I am struck once more by how much there is learned (and taught) about the slow, stubborn advancement of women in America over the last one hundred years. I will keep A Strange Stirring in the forefront of my bookshelf forever."

—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

"[A] timely contribution to the conversation about what constitutes progress for women (and for which women) in these days of mommy wars and mama grizzlies…. By considering The Feminine Mystique as one sturdy strand in the complex arguments we’re engaged in to this day, Coontz does Friedan the tremendous favor of pulling her down from heaven and up from hell…. [I]t’s a relief to have the level-headed Coontz providing perspective and taking Friedan’s work and legacy for what it was: stirring, strange, complicated and crucial."

—New York Times Book Review

"A Strange Stirring is a pleasure to read, fascinating and a little bit uncomfortable, like the history recounted in its pages."

"[R]eads like a sociological thriller."
—The Spokesman-Review

"Packed with fascinating statistics and research,...Coontz shines new light on a landmark work."

"A Strange Stirring gives voice to women whose lives were transformed by Friedan’s book, but most compellingly, it sets the historical record straight as far as its impact on families."


"Coontz makes abundant use of statistics to dissect the post-war period as experienced by American women more broadly—including African-American and working-class women, who were left out of Friedan’s study. She also considers Friedan herself, critiquing her more exaggerated and oversimplified claims, praising her for those observations that remain relevant…. As Coontz’s enlightening book demonstrates, Friedan’s core message about the need to balance meaningful work and family life endures."

—Barnes and Noble Review

"[S]ocial historian Stephanie Coontz…takes a fresh look at The Feminine Mystique by examining its effect on the book’s original readers…. Coontz usefully debunks some of the myths that have grown up around The Feminine Mystique and Friedan…. [A]n illuminating analysis of the book that helped launch the movement that freed women to participate more fully in American society."

—Wall Street Journal

"Coontz reconciles Friedan’s flawed text with its seemingly outsized influence, and deftly depicts the social context for the dramatic testimonials uncovered in Coontz’s research, the revelatory proto-feminist experiences shared by women of her mother’s generation…. [Coontz’s] clear-eyed review of the social data and cultural contradictions of the time…comprise a fascinating and important study. A Strange Stirring…is a book of rigor and undeceiving, one worthy of Friedan’s tradition."


"As the author of several books that challenge the accepted historical narrative of ‘traditional’ families and institutions…Coontz soberly checks facts, corrects misinformation, and fills in holes in the record. Most important, she shows how assumptions and misinformation about the past are used not only to paint a distorted picture of how things used to be, but to justify insidious policies and legislation like the Defense of Marriage Act. In her latest work…Coontz focuses on a book we’ve come to take for granted, arguing that it deserves a closer look…. [S]he not only explores the actual content of The Feminine Mystique (going well beyond the usual proclamations about its controversiality and importance), but insists that readers (and, presumably, feminists) figure out how to reconcile our idealized version of history with information that complicates it."

—Bitch Magazine

"This perceptive [and] engrossing…book provides welcome context and background to a still controversial bestseller that changed how women viewed themselves."

—Publishers Weekly

"Coupling meticulous research with first-person interviews, Coontz challenges a number of Friedan’s assumptions and exaggerations while also revisiting the climate in which the work appeared and giving voice to women for whom The Feminine Mystique was nothing short of a lifesaver…. As women continue to struggle with the effort to balance life and work, Coontz argues that The Feminine Mystique remains as relevant today as when it first appeared. In tracing the roots of current discontents, which Coontz dubs the ‘Supermom Mystique,’ her book is no less required reading than Friedan’s trailblazer."


"Coontz recaptures the impact of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique when it was published in 1963. Although Friedan claimed credit for initiating the modern feminist movement, Coontz places the book more dispassionately in its historical context as one of many factors working against entrenched gender roles. Still, Coontz demonstrates persuasively that women readers from many backgrounds found relief—some called it life-saving—in knowing that they were not crazy and not alone in their need to find some work independent of their family roles."

—Library Journal

"A sharp revisiting of the generation that was floored by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), and how the book is still relevant today…. A valuable education for women and men."

—Kirkus Reviews

"Stephanie Coontz’s new book takes you on an engrossing and enlightening tour of the past, with wisdom and meaning for the future."

—Nancy F. Cott, Trumbull Professor of American History, Harvard University

"Stephanie Coontz continues to amaze me. In her new book, A Strange Stirring, she chronicles the untold story of some of America’s greatest pioneers. This is a must read for all who care about our country’s growth and maturity. We owe the women described here the same gratitude and respect given to Lewis and Clark and the others who carved out this great nation."

—John Bradshaw, author of Reclaiming Virtue and the #1 New York Times bestsellers, Homecoming and Creating Love

"It Changed My Life was the title of the book Betty Friedan wrote after her transformative 1963 The Feminine Mystique. And change she did the lives of American women. Now in her biography of a classic, Stephanie Coontz imaginatively explores the impact of Friedan’s book. Weaving a rich fabric from what women said in letters and interviews, from articles in popular magazines, current scholarship, and her own astute reading of the 1963 work, Coontz compellingly reveals how generations of women—from the flappers of the 1920s to the bloggers and helicopter moms of today—have responded to the challenges modern women face."

—Daniel Horowitz, author of Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminine Mystique

"As was written about The Feminine Mystique, A Strange Stirring is ‘a journalistic tour de force, combining scholarship, investigative reporting and a compelling personal voice.’ Stephanie Coontz has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the most transformative movement of our lifetimes. Much of what Coontz reports regarding the prevailing ethos of the 1950s as a time of conformity, cultural conservatism and social repressiveness will be fascinating and eye-opening for younger readers. This book is a must read for men as well as for women. And the transformational desire for a work/family balance in life is now reflected not just by gender, but by generation, as both men and women ‘need to grow and fulfill their potentialities as human beings,’ as Friedan wrote almost a half a century ago."

—Christie Hefner, former chairman and chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises and longest serving female C.E.O. of a U.S. public company

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