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Hasan Elmdauis

2/21/01

WST 101

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.

32d


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