Like the word "Everyperson," this book might better be left unused. Though well-intentioned, this mishandled volume fosters just the sort of sexual separatism that it purports to counteract.
The editors have stretched their search for "women with provable records... [and].. 'firsts'" to include the "First Nun President of Western U.S. Hospitals," "ABC's Only Woman Anchor Before Barbara Walters," and the anonymous Italian "shepherdess" who modeled for the 1977 Ceres Medal.
The book's political naivete is demonstrated when Rep. Patricia Shroeder's (D-Colo.) mere presence on the "male-dominated" House Armed Services Committee is said to prove "that a femals voice can make a difference in formulating military policy" (a phrase made all the more embarrassing by Shroeder's position as consulting editor of the politics and government section).
In one sentence, Margaret Thatcher's selection as head of Britain's Conservative Party is said to have "struck a major blow" at the "male-dominated political establishment"; the next sentence concedes that Thatcher "is no flaming feminist" and says that her promotion was a backbench revolt by opponents of Edward Heath.
There is a cuteness to many of the headings; in a catch-all category called "Far-Out Women," Soviet astronaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova-Nikolayeva is called "Farthest Out of All." Novelist Dorothy Sayers, creater of the Wimsey mysteries, is described as "Lord Peter's Midwife."
There are careless slips -- although Edward VIII is properly identified in the Wallis Warfield Simpson entry (her claim to fame apparently being that she caused him to abdicate), the entry for Queen Elizabeth II has him abdicating as heir-apparent instead of as king.
There is also an entry for Lisa Halaby/Noor al-Hussein, whose inclusion is laid to her achievement of having married a reigning monarch.
There are far too many "two-fers" included for their own sakes. "The First Woman and First Black Assistant Secretary for Administraton, USDA" and the tossing together of "Influential Black Women Painters" is either gushing or irritating, depending on your point of view.
And to what purpose is "one of a small group of women quarantine inspectors in the U.S.A." included? (She looks through planes and ships landing in Hawaii?)
In the Arts and Entertainment field, where women have had a relatively active role, artists are skimmed over, as opposed to the sections where dubious entries are used to plump out the roster. Women in country music, who have been consistently influential and long-lived, are lumped together in three paragraphs which mention only Patsy Cline, Minnie Pearl (Sarah O. Colley), Mother Maybelle Carter and, as almost a second thought, her daughter June Carter Cash, and Dolly Parton. We see the moderately influential Tallulah Bankhead, but not the still popular Lauren Bacall.
And is it possible that the editors had a philosophical ax to grind? For there are entries for Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer and Doris Lesstal Woman -- but not Phyllis Schlafly, leader of the anti-ERA forces, which have prevented the legislatin's adoption for seven years.
Typographically, the book is monotonous, as almost all the printing -- introductions, headlines and body type -- is in the same serif type, either plain or boldface. And what little white space there is, is used to little advantage.
If there is a saving grace about this compendium, it is a sense of humor which places Heloise of the household hints right next toErma Bombeck, the scourge of the suburbs.
Or perhaps it's the vagueness, the sort which animates cartoon ladies in The New Yorker. Under the Elsa Schiaparelli entry, having implied a bohemian existence for "Schiap," the authors add casually that "her granddaughters, model-actress Marisa Berenson and fashion photographer Berry Berenson, eontinue her traditions."
In general, this "Women's Book of World Records" is a reference which ought to be put on the shelf next to the "Book of Knowledge," in hopes that there eventually will be a grown-up volume to progress to.