Letty Cottin Pogrebin & “How to Make it in a Man’s World“

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Image: Signed First Edition of How to Make it in a Man’s World from the library of The American Jewish Historical Society

By ​​Melanie J. Meyers, M.S., Senior Librarian for Special Collections, Reference, and Instruction, Lillian Goldman Reading Room, Center For Jewish History

Before Sheryl Sandberg told women to Lean In, Letty Cottin Pogrebin (Born June 9, 1939) was giving women the scoop on How to Make it in a Man’s World. First published in 1970, Pogrebin mined her own experiences as a career woman working her way up the ranks at a small publishing house to write a witty and insightful book addressing the unique challenges of being a woman in the workplace. Pogrebin is a pioneering voice of second-wave feminism; she was one of the original founding editors of Ms., the groundbreaking women’s magazine, and went on to write many other books including Getting Yours: How to Make the System Work for the Working Woman (1976), and most recently, Single Jewish Male Seeking Soulmate (2015). She has been active in a multitude of political and social causes; among her many accomplishments, she is a co-founder of both the Ms. Foundation for Women and the National Women’s Political Caucus, and has been a lifetime member of Hadassah.

While How to Make it in a Man’s World was published over 40 years ago, and progress has been made on many fronts, many of the themes still resonate in 2016. She discusses the conflict between stay-at-home and working mothers, and the “complex ambivalence that a great many women feel about working”; the “mommy wars” have been around for a lot longer than we may have realized. If you look at recent articles lamenting workplace politics around issues like office “housekeeping” (women tend to be asked to do more low-value work than their male counterparts) and the recognition of  “soft sexism”,   that seems to fit right in with her chapter on “How to succeed in business without really typing”. And given the well-documented proliferation of sexual harassment in the workplace, her chapter on “The helping hand and how to keep it off your body” could have been featured in any number of magazines today.

The American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) holds a first edition of this book, autographed by the author. They also hold copies of her other works, all of which can be found at search.cjh.org.

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