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Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America

Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America - Jo B. Paoletti Hello, my name is Deborah and I read way too many books at once. But a lot of them are things I'm reading with my sonny (a little every night) or only in the bathroom or right before bed; or else they're the kind of thing it's hard to make a dent in (hello, Leviathan -- I'm halfway through you, pal!).

This is my sitting-at-the-kitchen-table read. It's interesting and thought-provoking. For instance:

"It's not unusual to hear modern people describe Victorian babies as being dressed like girls; this is an error. To its own parents and grandparents, a child wearing the traditional white dress looked like 'a baby.' This convention could be explained in practical terms of diapering, hand-me-downs, and laundering, but that is a partial truth. An equally important explanation is that gendered dress was considered inappropriate for young children, whose asexual innocence was so often cited as one of their greatest charms."

--Just finished! What a great book. I loved the historical information -- did you know that the word "pink" wasn't used to describe a color until the 1840s? And here's an amazing quote from a 1918 article:

"Pink or Blue? Which is intended for boys and which for girls? This question comes from one of our readers this month, and the discussion may be of interest to others. There has been a great diversity of opinion on this subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

(Paoletti doesn't say, but I wonder if this has to do with the color pink's origin story. Clothing-wise, for a long time it was simply red fabric that had been washed a lot, rather than a delicate tint all its own.)

I also very much enjoyed the more recent "historical" anecdotes, such as Paoletti's middle school teacher telling her 1963 home ec class that girls' clothes should have zippers in the side or back. "Women don't need front flies," she declared.

Whether your interest is in sociology, feminism, or costume history, you'll enjoy this lively, readable book.