At the height of the Vietnam War protests, twenty-eight-year-old Judith Nies and her husband lived a seemingly idyllic life. Both were building their respective careers in Washington—Nies as the speechwriter and chief staffer to a core group of antiwar congressmen, her husband as a Treasury department economist. They lived in the carriage house of the famed Marjorie Merriweather Post estate. But when her husband brought home a list of questions from an FBI file with Judith's name on the front, Nies soon realized that her life was about to take a radical turn. Shocked to find herself the focus of an FBI investigation into her political activities, Nies began to reevaluate her role as grateful employee and dutiful wife. In The Girl I Left Behind, she chronicles the experiences of those women who, like herself, reinvented their lives in the midst of a wildly shifting social and political landscape.
In a fresh, candid look at the 1960s, Nies pairs illuminating descriptions of feminist leaders, women's liberation protests, and other pivotal social developments with the story of her own transformation into a staunch activist and writer. From exposing institutionalized sexism on Capitol Hill in her first published article to orchestrating the removal of a separate "Ladies Gallery" on the House floor to taking leadership of the Women in Fellowships Committee, Nies discusses her own efforts to enlarge women's choices and to change the workplace—and how the repercussions of those efforts in the sixties can still be felt today.
A heartfelt memoir and piercing social commentary, The Girl I Left Behind recounts one woman's courageous journey toward independence and equality. It also evaluates the consequences of the feminist movement on the same women who made it happen—and on the daughters born in their wake.
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Judith Nies has worked as a journalist, teacher, historian, researcher, and corporate speechwriter. The author of three books, including the classic biography Nine Women, she teaches a course on memoir as history and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.From Booklist:
Nies, author and activist, offers a refreshingly candid look at her own life as a product of the 1960s and 1970s. After completing graduate school overseas in international affairs, Nies returns to the U.S. in 1966 to race riots and the burgeoning antiwar movement. She marries a Treasury Department employee, then lands “the most interesting job in Washington,” working as an aide to a group of 10 liberal congressmen. Against the familiar backdrop of assassinations, the Chicago Democratic Convention riots in 1968, and the invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State shootings in 1970, Nies outlines her own hostile work environment during those years. After writing an article on the “institutionalized sexism prevailing on Capitol Hill,” she lands a new job working for a congressman’s wife. At the same time, her own marriage is disintegrating due to the chasm between her activism and her husband’s administration job. Nothing really new here, but Nies’ personal take on the ripple effects of the women’s movement—both on those involved directly and those who followed—is honest and engaging. --Deborah Donovan
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