Abstract

Abstract:

Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962), and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963) are regarded as critical texts of the early 1960s because they provoked the rapid growth of three momentous reform movements—new urbanism, environmentalism, and feminism. The three authors have been celebrated for their concurrent roles in stimulating activism and societal change in the United States (and abroad), but scholars have just begun to explore commonalities among the three, preferring to study their distinct contributions to thinking about cities, the environment, and women. This article reorients our view, arguing that the three authors' shared experiences of gender positioned them to become acute observers of relational dynamics and power imbalances in a myriad of settings. It finds, too, that the three women, although concerned with strikingly different problems, were similarly committed to revealing deep flaws in the nation's understanding of, and approach to, nature. They found distortions of human and non-human nature at the heart of the crises they uncovered—in misguided urban planning, the overuse of pesticides, and men's oppression of women. Their thinking resonated across the movements of the New Left, shaping its varied claims and perspectives. Jacobs, Carson, and Friedan thus invite a new interpretation of the sixties, one that finds nature-centered critiques of the status quo, providing intellectual coherence to a seemingly fragmented left and simultaneously inciting counter arguments about nature in the emerging New Right.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 78-101
Launched on MUSE
2019-09-13
Open Access
No
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