The myth is in tatters long before the end of Sylvia Ann Hewlett's fierce denunciation of women's liberation, American style. Trained as an economist first at Cambridge University, then at Harvard, now living and working in the United States, Hewlett is married and the mother of three children under 10. Evaluating the chasm between the illusion and reality of equality, she has thoroughly researched the status of contemporary women in France, Sweden, England and Italy. From this broad perspective, she compares the goals and achievements of the various movements abroad with the American counterpart, finding the differences not only vast but pernicious.
While the American activists have emphasized sexual freedom and individual autonomy, the Europeans have concentrated upon support systems and enlightened social legislation enabling women successfully to combine motherhood and work. Americans "have so arranged life that a man may have a home, a family, love, companionship, domesticity, and fatherhood, yet remain an active citizen; a woman must 'choose'; either live alone, unloved, unaccompanied, uncared for, homeless, childless, with her work in the world for sole consolation, or give up all world service for the joys of love, motherhood and domestic service." Although those particular words were written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1897, Hewlett finds them bleakly applicable today, after nearly a century of agitation, rhetoric and ill-deserved self-congratulation. According to Hewlett, "Motherhood is the problem modern feminists cannot face," and she has marshalled an impressive array of hard evidence to prove her point.