Cambridge Common Press Launches Broken Patterns

Broken Patterns CoverBook by Anita M. Harris assesses professional women’s progress in light of mothers and grandmothers lives; includes stories of younger women

Cambridge, MA, March 4, 2014–Cambridge Common Press today launched a new edition of Broken Patterns, Professional Women and the Quest for a New Feminine Identity . The release is timed to Women’s History Month (March, 2014).

Broken Patterns, by award-winning journalist Anita M. Harris, traces the experiences of 40 American professional women who entered male-dominated careers in the 1970s and 1980s. Placing these groundbreaking women in generational context along with their mothers and grandmothers, the book outlines a “push-pull” pattern of historical development going back to the Colonial period in America.

The new (2nd) edition adds stories of present day college students and recent graduates, a new preface and an afterword assessing how far women have come since Broken Patterns was originally published, in 1995.

In the 19th century and again in the 20th,  Harris writes, the more women left the home for paying work in one generation, the  deeper the societal belief in domesticity for women in the next.

A “push-pull” pattern first became apparent when,  to Harris’ surprise, women told her they chose their careers because they didn’t want to emulate their mothers, who were homemakers in the 1950s–but described grandmothers who had worked outside the home in the early 1900s.

In light of the struggles of today’s working women to balance careers and families, Harris asks, what does such a push-pull dynamic portend for the future?

Unlike several new books arguing that women’s quest for equality has stalled, Harris takes a hopeful view, suggesting that “progress is not linear, nor cyclic, but spiral.”  As individuals and as a society,  she writes, “we  push forward toward a goal, reach an impasse, pull back  to retrieve and reintegrate aspects and values of the past, building new frameworks in which to move forward, once again.”

The book will be of interest to all working women because it shows how their life decisions may be influenced—consciously or unconsciously—by mothers’ and grandmothers’ lives.

NPR Reporter and author Margot Adler calls the book  ”A splendid study of professional women.”


Harris carried out her research as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and at the Henry A. Murray Center at Radcliffe College.  Previously, she had reported on the “women’s issues”  for Newsday and for the MacNeil/Lehrer Report (now the NewsHour) of national public television. She has taught at Harvard and Yale Universities, at Simmons College and in the MBA program at Babson College. Currently, she is managing director of the Harris Communications Group, in Cambridge, MA.

Broken Patterns Second Edition  [ISBN 978061590615907062] is available in paperback and Kindle editions  from, other online bookstores, at the Harvard Bookstore, in Cambridge, MA, and will soon be available at The Cornell Store, in Ithaca, NY. The first edition was published by Wayne State University Press.

For more information, please visit the Broken Patterns Website at, or


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