Free to Be was a declaration of independence for children’s dreams, unshackled by archaic stereotypes that had once seemed timeless truths. … This marvelous collection reminds us of that paradigm shift, still gently iconoclastic, while reminding us how far we have yet to go.”

Michael Kimmel, author of The Gendered Society

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“How wonderful it is to see the paths taken by the younger contributors to this book—the ones who were children when Free to Be was first released. Reading about their journeys delighted and inspired me.”

Marlo Thomas, from the Prologue

“The 1972 record album and illustrated book, Free To Be You…and Me, which this new volume memorializes, offered gender-neutral stories sung or told by celebrities of the day…Contributors to that classic understandably take pride here in what they accomplished. Marlo Thomas, who conceived of the idea behind Free To Be, is here (heavily represented in the photographs), along with Ms. magazine cofounder Gloria Steinem, actor Alan Alda, and writer Deborah Siegel, whose “Dispatches from My Twins’ First Year” nicely captures the everyday quandaries of parents trying to be nonsexist. Rotskoff and Lovett include separate essays by social justice activist Letty Cottin Pogrebin and her daughters Robin Pogrebin and Abigail Pogrebin, thus providing distinct generational perspectives. General readers familiar with the original record or book, both still available, and researchers interested in social, gender, and media studies will appreciate this work.”

Library Journal

“Like the children’s classic that inspired it, When We Were Free to Be is a groundbreaking cultural critique wrapped in an inspiring, funny, and creative package.  It’s filled with incisive reflections on the long-lasting impact of Free to Be and the legacy of feminism.  Nothing like it exists.”

Christina Baker Kline, author and editor of novels and nonfiction books, including Bird in Hand and the forthcoming Orphan Train

“An exhilarating book about an exhilarating (and catchy!) piece of our popular culture.”

Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women

“[A] stunning examination of the cultural impact of Marlo Thomas’s classic record album and book … Riveting and timely.”

Steven Mintz, Columbia University, author of Huck’s Raft:  A History of American Childhood

“Free to Be…You and Me showed my daughters they had the power to lead their own dreams. Now, in passionate and touching personal accounts, When We Were Free to Be shows how profoundly this one book has empowered an entire generation.”

Gloria Feldt, past president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power

“A moving reminder that the women’s movement was and is ardently pro-child. These fascinating reminiscences and timely essays about what still needs doing to make our children truly ‘free to be’ will have you singing the songs again–or discovering the joy of learning them.”

Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s

When We Were Free to Be

Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made

If you grew up during the days of mood rings and lava lamps, you may remember Free to Be…You and Me-the groundbreaking children’s record, book, and television special that debuted in 1972. Conceived by the actress and producer Marlo Thomas and promoted by Ms. magazine, this landmark trio of children’s media captured the spirit of the growing women’s movement and inspired girls and boys to challenge prevailing gender and racial stereotypes.  It also encouraged young listeners to value cooperation, respect diversity, and explore the world with curiosity and imagination.  In this lively collection marking Free to Be…You and Me‘s 40th anniversary, thirty-two contributors explore the creation, popular reception, and enduring legacy of this popular children’s classic.

When We Were Free to Be offers an unprecedented behind-the-scenes view of Free to Be by its original creators, as well as accounts by activists and educators who changed the landscape of childhood in schools, homes, toy stores, and libraries nationwide. Essays document the rise of non-sexist children’s culture during the 1970s and address how the stories, songs, and skits of Free to Be still resonate for parents and children today.

Contributors to this commemorative, insightful collection include: Alan Alda, Laura Briggs, Karl Bryant, Becky Friedman, Nancy Gruver, Carol Hall, Carole Hart, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Joe Kelly, Cheryl Kilodavis, Dionne Kirschner, Francine Klagsbrun, Stephen Lawrence, Laura L. Lovett, Courtney E. Martin, Karin A. Martin, Tayloe McDonald, Trey McIntyre, Peggy Orenstein, Leslie Paris, Miriam Peskowitz, Deesha Philyaw, Abigail Pogrebin, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Robin Pogrebin, Patrice Quinn, Lori Rotskoff, Deborah Siegel, Jeremy Adam Smith, Barbara Sprung, Gloria Steinem, and Marlo Thomas.

When We Were Free to Be was published in hardcover in November, 2012.  It will be reissued in paperback in August, 2014.

* Chosen as a Book of the Month Club and History Book Club Selection

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“Original and perceptive. . . . Rotskoff has given us a wonderful book showing that it is possible to study family and gender relations dynamically and interactively while also illuminating other fields, in this case the cultural history of consumption practices.”

Women’s Review of Books

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“A lively account of the culture of drink—and the gendered tensions it encoded–across the twentieth century. Rotskoff shows that even as excessive drinking was defined as a disease, social drinking—’cocktail culture’—by both men and women became an integral part of the middle-class experience. Wide-ranging, engaging, and informative.”

Elizabeth Lunbeck, Princeton University

“Highly recommended. A brilliant read for all.”


“[A] well-researched, well-written book. . . . Rotskoff uses stories, advertising, scientific studies, and movies to show how the relationship between men and women in the marital state is infused, informed, and interwoven with scientific, moral, and social beliefs about the use of alcohol.”

New England Journal of Medicine

“Rotskoff offers a provocative analysis of the alcoholism movement, which illuminates the gender and family dynamics surrounding alcoholism and the larger historical context in which these issues took shape.”


“Rotskoff’s book is a must for those interested in the social history of alcohol in America.”

American Historical Review

Love on the Rocks

Men, Women, and Alcohol in Post-World War Two America

In this fascinating history of alcohol in postwar American culture, Lori Rotskoff draws on short stories, advertisements, medical writings, and Hollywood films to investigate how gender norms and ideologies of marriage intersected with scientific and popular ideas about drinking and alcoholism during the mid-twentieth century.

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, recreational drinking became increasingly accepted among white, suburban, middle-class men and women. But excessive or habitual drinking plagued many families. How did people view the “problem drinkers” in their midst? How did husbands and wives learn to cope within an “alcoholic marriage?” And how was drinking linked to broader social concerns during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War era?

By the 1950s, Rotskoff explains, mental health experts, movie producers, and members of self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon helped bring about a shift in the public perception of alcoholism from “sin” to “sickness.” Yet alcoholism was also viewed as a family problem that expressed gender-role failure for both women and men. On the silver screen and on the printed page, in hospitals and at Twelve Step meetings, chronic drunkenness became one of the most pressing public health issues of the day.

Love on the Rocks is available in trade paperback.

View Love on the Rocks at The University of North Carolina Press.

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