By Miriam Bernard, Judith Phillips, Linda Machin and Val Harding
ISBN 0 415 18943 8 (hardback)
ISBN 1 415 18944 6 (paperback)
The contributors to this book are keen to explore and challenge
some of the myths and stereotypes which have tended to be
associated with older women across a range of familiar sociological
topics. The book was the outcome of collaborative work by women
academics at Keele University or linked to the institution.
Women’s work, the meaning of retirement, working and caring, the
menopause, the ageing self, education, widowhood and long-term
marriage are all considered.
In taking this approach, they show that gender persists in its
importance as a defining characteristic in many stages of the life
course but not always in the way in which mainstream analyses have
The notion of women’s work both paid and unpaid, so often
disparaged, is shown to be an important element in women’s sense of
self-esteem. Managing the twin roles of carer and worker for many
women is more often found to be the source of satisfaction than the
cause of psychological overload. The menopause is not the
bio-medical disaster that is often depicted but a process and an
opportunity for women to reflect upon their changing
Similarly, while the real experience of grief and loss is
recognised, the traditionally bleak picture of widowhood is
challenged with evidence that many widows are able to build full
and satisfying lives during the years to come. Throughout the book,
older women are shown to resourceful, reflective and resilient.
It is refreshing to find that there are new ways of addressing
familiar topics and it shows that broadly-defined feminist
approaches have much to offer in developing new insights into, and
interpretations of, social reality.
The authors conclude with a timely reminder that policymakers
and practitioners need to take heed of their findings. In
particular, they should throw off old assumptions and recognise the
importance of listening to individuals, particularly older women,
and respond in ways which have meaning and relevance to them.
Gillian Dalley, director Centre for Policy on