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On Women Turning 70: Honoring the Voices of Wisdom
On Women Turning 70 is a book that is made up of
interviews with several older women who took their biggest
steps toward success when they were in their senior years.
Rountree spoke with women like author Madeline L’Engle, and
acclaimed newspaper columnist Liz Smith, who became successful
just as she was about to retire. Rountree learned about the
women’s lives and got their take on feminism and aging to
include in the book. The women that Rountree chose to
interview seem to be women who either began living life to the
fullest in their older years, or who achieved greatness young,
and have held onto to that throughout their entire lives.
On Women Turning 70 includes profiles of sixteen women,
with information about their past, and important moments in
their lives. It also includes what each woman said in her
interview about themselves, and their vitality. Some sections
had quotes from the women about aging and why they are
different than most women. For example, sociologist Lee
Robins said of her new-found love at age 75, “How different is
love in my seventies from when I was in love as a young woman?
It’s not terribly different……there are no unknowns
anymore…” Robins goes on to tell more advantages to being
her age and in love. She also tells her feelings about all of
the positive things about being older, in general.
Author Doris Lessing had a similar take on life, having
fallen in love at age 65. Lessing talks about how she doesn’t
mind being “invisible” to younger people, as she calls it.
She discusses how this concept is mostly an American one and
how in other countries and cultures, younger people are
extremely interested in their elders. Young people in other
countries, for example China, feel that older people have very
valid opinions on different topics, according to Lessing. She
also talks about how she is mostly “invisible” men, and about
how, since she started aging, men don’t notice her as much.
Lessing also discusses deeper issues, like dying, and
different ways to look at it. She mentions how the most
religious people are the ones who seem to be the most
frightened of death and the concept of afterlife.
Choreographer and teacher Anna Haplin was extremely
personal in her interview. She talked about her battle with
cancer, and how she sees it as a dividing line for her life.
Before she was got cancer, she said, “I used my life in the
service of my art. After I had cancer, I began to use my art
in the service of life.” Haplin discussed her brush with
death, and the death of her mother, and how these had such a
strong effect on her life’s work. They affected her
motivation, and her philosophies about life.
Artist Ruth Asawa talked about her education, and how much
she learned their from other people. She also discussed the
influence of Imogen Cunningham, her role model. Asawa talked
about how she learned simple things from Cunningham, but how
they had such a big impact on her. Asawa also talked about
her battle with a life-threatening disease, lupus. She
mentioned how she kept a journal throughout her entire time
spent in the hospital, and how her writings and drawings were
so intense during that time. She believed it to be due to the
medication she was on. Asawa said of aging, “It’s never too
late, but don’t wait until it’s too late, because you won’t
have the energy….If you can only get an hour at eleven
o’clock at night, take it. But don’t wait until you will have
eight hours a day, because it might not come.
Internationally known photographer, Inge Morath is another
person who was interviewed for On Women Turning 70. Morath
looks at aging through a more general viewpoint. She says, “
I don’t mind getting older. You just have to.” She talks
about how, when you get older, you finally know what it is you
want in life, and you know what you are capable of doing. She
talks about love, and success, and some of the ways that aging
has affected her life in those areas. She also discusses some
women who influenced her life through inspiration. Her final
piece of advice to other women, on aging, says, “Don’t panic
about your age. Be yourself the best you can. Because if you
aren’t yourself, you are nothing. Be yourself, whichever
shape or size you are.”
Overall I enjoyed this book. It had some really
interesting anecdotes about the women’s lives who were
interviewed. On Women Turning 70 also gave some good insights
and advice for women about aging. As a male, I’m sure that
some of my opinions about aging are different than women’s.
Men, in general, are affected differently by getting older.
Our bodies react differently, and I believe that we do not
really get concerned about aging until later in life than when
women do. This book gave me a better understanding about
concerns that women have about aging. I believe that this
book could give women who are worried about getting older some
confidence in that area.
The women who were interviewed and photographed by
Rountree in order to make On Women Turning 70 have all had so
many successes in their elder years. They have become
writers, photographers, teachers, artists, philosophers, and
sociologists, among other things. They have found love and
happiness after age 60. These women’s stories could be
inspirational to a woman going through life issues. I believe
that this book makes it easy for women to believe that things
can be done in their older years. Women can be successful
when they are seniors, and need to know this.
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