Author, journalist, and New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins may be personally responsible for saving the mental health of untold numbers of readers who depend on her witty, incisive takes on the world to get them through another day in Crazytown. (Sidenote: One person who is not her biggest fan? Donald Trump. After one scathing column in which she called him a “thousandaire,” he sent her the article with her face circled and wrote, “You have the face of a pig and you are a dog and a liar.” She has it framed and proudly hung in her office.) Now Collins is back with No Stopping Us Now: A History of American Women, Age, and Expectations Defied (Little, Brown, Oct.), a look at women and aging throughout American history.
You’ve written several books about the intersection of women, feminism, and history. What inspired you to throw aging into the mix?
In several of the earlier books I wrote, I saw that throughout history all the rules about what women are supposed to be doing are instantly repealed if there aren’t enough women around. If women are in short supply, they can get away with anything. In the early West, there was Stagecoach Mary, who, at 60 years old, had a saloon, was beating people over the head with bottles, and running stagecoaches.
What about women who lived during times when their supply was abundant?
The women would get really sneaky. When abolitionist Elizabeth Cady Stanton was traveling and giving speeches, this was unheard-of behavior. Women were expected to stay home and raise children. She figured out if she waited until her hair was gray and children grown, she could say, “I believe that and did that, and now I am going to tell you about abolition.”
Where do you think the state of women is today? On the one hand, we have women like Alexandra O-C and Rachel Maddow, who speak their minds and never apologize. On the other, we have women like Candace Owens and Ann Coulter, who sneer at feminists as a bunch of man-hating freaks.
The interesting thing is that there are many powerful women on all sides now. People get upset about Ann Coulter yelling a lot, but it’s not because she’s yelling but because they don’t like what she is saying. That’s a change. People are driven equally crazy by Ann as they are by Sean Hannity. And everyone wants to keep Ruth Bader Ginsburg alive, watching her do her push-ups.
Your book gives women reason to expect the best of their golden years.
I’ve realized that during my lifetime society’s ideas about women totally transformed in a way never before seen in Western civilization. It’s all about economics now as much as gender. If you have money, you have agency. That didn’t happen 50 years ago.
Today, 4–4:30 p.m. Gail Collins will sign at Table 7.