Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Book Reviews -- Single Women: On the Margins? by Tuula Gordon

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Book Reviews -- Single Women: On the Margins? by Tuula Gordon

Article excerpt

Single Women: On the Margins? Tuula Gordon. New York: New York University Press. 1994. 225 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-814-3063-9. $40 cloth, $14.95 paper.

One stated purpose of Tuula Gordon's book is to illustrate the lives of single women. Both the public and the private spheres are examined; the public realm includes work, politics, and other public activities, and the private sphere includes home life, loneliness, social relationships, and sexuality. A second objective is to look at single women's perceptions of status. Two additional goals are to look at autonomy and marginality among single women.

A snowball sampling technique was used to locate 72 single women to participate in semistructured interviews, 24 women from each of three countries--England, Finland, and the United States. Included were never-married, divorced, and separated women. There were no widows and no cohabitors. Respondents had to be at least 35 years old. There was no upper age limit; the oldest was 69. About a third of the women had children of various ages. Although Gordon said she interviewed from different social classes, she also noted that the women in her sample were better educated and better paid than women on average.

Some of Gordon's major conclusions about the women in her study are: No one specific type of woman was likely to be single; work structured the lives of these women by providing reference points, possibilities, constraints, and limitations; there was not a great concern with politics, but there was participation in the public sphere in other nonwork ways; these women had to negotiate their public and private spheres because the single status, unlike the married status, is not reinforced through a variety of social and cultural patterns (their social relationships were critical to this process); both the sexually active and the celebate women were viewed as deviant, and the single women in general were considered a threat to men and to marriages; although large numbers of the women recognized both negative and positive aspects to their single status, there were major differences in how positive and how negative the status was for individual women; these women strived for both independence and connections in intimate relationships; and they were marginalized, with many of them experiencing multiple marginalization.

Turning to the strengths of this book, one is the much-needed focus on singlehood. …

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