When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made

When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made

When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made

When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made

Synopsis

If you grew up in the era of mood rings and lava lamps, you probably remember Free to Be... You and Me --the groundbreaking children's record, book, and television special that debuted in 1972. Conceived by actress and producer Marlo Thomas and promoted by Ms. magazine, it captured the spirit of the growing women's movement and inspired girls and boys to challenge stereotypes, value cooperation, and respect diversity. In this lively collection marking the fortieth anniversary of Free to Be... You and Me, thirty-two contributors explore the creation and legacy of this popular children's classic.
Featuring a prologue by Marlo Thomas, When We Were Free to Be offers an unprecedented insiders' view by the original creators, as well as accounts by activists and educators who changed the landscape of childhood in schools, homes, toy stores, and libraries nationwide. Essays document the rise of non-sexist children's culture during the 1970s and address how Free to Be still speaks to families today.
Contributors are Alan Alda, Laura Briggs, Karl Bryant, Becky Friedman, Nancy Gruver, Carol Hall, Carole Hart, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Joe Kelly, Cheryl Kilodavis, Dionne Kirschner, Francine Klagsbrun, Stephen Lawrence, Laura L. Lovett, Courtney Martin, Karin A. Martin, Tayloe McDonald, Trey McIntyre, Peggy Orenstein, Leslie Paris, Miriam Peskowitz, Deesha Philyaw, Abigail Pogrebin, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Robin Pogrebin, Patrice Quinn, Lori Rotskoff, Deborah Siegel, Jeremy Adam Smith, Barbara Sprung, Gloria Steinem, and Marlo Thomas.

Excerpt

Lori Rotskoff & Laura L. Lovett

If you grew up or raised children during the days of pet rocks, mood rings, and lava lamps, there’s a good chance that you remember Free to Be… You and Me, the groundbreaking children’s record, book, and television special that debuted in 1972. Yet unlike other relics from the recent past, the messages and melodies from Free to Be… You and Me still resonate for many children, parents, and teachers today. Even if you’re younger than the generation that first came of age with it during the 1970s, you’ve probably heard some of the album’s songs or stories before.

Free to Be… You and Me still stirs up a heady mix of memories for adults who once belted out the words to “William’s Doll” and “Parents Are People” in second-grade classrooms or wood-paneled dens with orange shag carpet. If it’s nostalgia that led you to this volume, you’ll find plenty of recollections here to take you back. You’ll rediscover how Free to Be… You and Me encouraged children to confront the world with a spirit of unfettered possibility and imagination.

But this book isn’t just a cozy trip down memory lane. and Free to Be… You and Me wasn’t merely an entertaining novelty for the primary-school set. It also offered kids a fresh alternative to rigid gender and racial stereotypes that had long prevailed in American society. Featuring a mélange of songs, skits, stories, and poems recorded by celebrated musicians, actors, and singers, Free to Be… You and Me dramatically changed the way in which parents and children thought (and continue to think) about gender roles and social equality. Conceived by actress and children’s welfare activist Marlo Thomas, and coproduced with Carole Hart, this unique compilation taught children to value cooperation and resist blind conformity to social expectations. Infused with positive messages endorsing freedom of expression, fairness, and respect for diversity, Free to Be… You and Me taught young people to resist prejudice and transcend prevailing norms of acceptable “boy” or “girl” behavior. Using popular media as a vehicle to inspire and influence children—as well as the adults who taught and cared for them—Free to Be combined entertainment and educa-

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