Midge Decter, an exquisite lady, is, of course, a familiar name to most of you. The book she authored pre-Rumsfeld however, is a little bit of a secret. And Old Wife’s Tales was published right before 9/11/01, so obviously did not get the play it otherwise would likely have gotten. It’s part memoir (though not the exposé-type), part history, part commentary.
To give you a taste, later that fall, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese wrote this in her NRODT review of Midge’s book:
in her passing jabs at the women’s movement, she displays more homey wisdom and common sense than vituperation. A staunch opponent of affirmative action, Decter failed to understand “why any woman would fight for years to become a member of a club whose majority were opposed to allowing women to join.” How could affirmative action under such conditions result in anything but “massive seizures of self-doubt”-as she believes it has for “some blacks in elite colleges and women learning to be fighter pilots”? Comments and reflections like these, which she drops throughout the book, remind the reader that she is also the author of The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation–and of countless other directly political interventions that more acerbically dissect what she views as the failures and outright dishonesty of the last three decades of affirmative action and identity politics.
Like some of the other accomplished women of her generation (one thinks of Himmelfarb and Carolyn Graglia), Decter minimizes the difficulties that she, as a woman, encountered during the course of her career. Indeed, she places little emphasis on her feelings in general. The spare account of her private life leaves no doubt that she must have been a young woman of singular determination. The youngest of three daughters of a Jewish shopkeeper in St. Paul, Minn., Decter early developed a secret longing to live in New York; and after dropping out of the University of Minnesota, she moved there. Decter says nothing about having been discouraged in her pursuit of education. (To the contrary, her parents expected her to finish college, leave home, and embrace a career.) She says only that, even though she knew a college degree could prove useful, she hated school. So, armed only with her self-confidence and minimal typing skills, she left for New York to perfect her Hebrew “at the College of Jewish Studies of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and otherwise, as the cliche of the time would have it, [to] ‘find myself.’”