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<i>Double Bind: Women on Ambition</i>. Ed. by Robin Romm. Liveright, 2017. HB, 336p. $27.95.

Bound to Succeed

I once asked my mother, a well-educated, exceedingly competent woman, why she served as someone’s assistant for the majority of her professional life, yet always took a leadership role in volunteer organizations (president of the PTA and director of nearly every church committee on which she’s ever served, for example). Her response was unequivocal: “Your grandmother always told me that I would never be anything other than a secretary.” Mothers—“They fuck you up,” Philip Larkin wrote. “They may not mean to, but they do.”

A Book of Martyrs

The vow was unspoken between them: Once started on their drive into a more northerly part of the state, once embarked upon this journey, they could not turn back.