My walking partner heard the author on NPR and told me a bit about the book; it was interesting enough to pick up and read.
The historical coverage is poor; there are numerous errors and misrepresentations.
The comparison of how much and how many women are drinking now versus in the past is baseless and, I believe, completely wrong. I do not believe there is any real basis for believing that more middle class or upper middle class women are drinking in a way that they are unhappy with or that objectively appears problematic now than earlier in the 20th century, never mind the 19th century. Glaser, who in many respects is admirably data oriented, doesn’t have data for this so it’s just kinda commentary.
You might wonder, why the heck bother with such a flawed book? Ah, well, there are not a lot of books out there about women and alcohol specifically. This one includes great coverage of the history of AA with a view to the women who aren’t typically mentioned, in particular Marty Mann. There’s wonderful descriptions of research about how women are affected by alcohol consumption -- and why there is so little research and how that is slowly changing. Glaser mostly avoids blame-the-victim, and for those who are looking for a solution to their drinking problem, she points the reader at what I believe are these people: http://www.non12step.com/ She also suggests Moderation Management, whose book _Responsible Drinking_ I read over a decade ago and found insightful and reassuring; I can’t speak to how effective it is. Glaser notes over and over how unfortunate drinking patterns develop in college and then become very difficult to change; she also talks about how evening is a trigger for many women (can’t really avoid evening, and if you’re already doing most of your drinking at home, that’s kinda tough to avoid, too). She does a nice job of showing how the different way alcohol affects women interacts particularly negatively with 12 Step program which emphasize powerlessness. The stories she includes of sexual abuse in AA chapters are quite harrowing, and accompanied by detailed descriptions of how various people at the national level failed in their efforts to make meaningful cultural changes.
I look forward to future books about women and alcohol, and women and drinking. This is an important and under-studied topic. I expect over time that gender based consumption patterns -- including abuse -- of alcohol will converge (by women consuming more and men consuming less), as we have seen with a variety of other trends. I also believe that we will eventually come to realize that while AA has some particularly negative aspects with respect to women, the built-in dismissal of underlying mental health issues present in AA from the beginning and throughout its history, in conjunction with its relentless (altho increasingly covert) religiosity, will lead to its general loss of credibility in favor of more pragmatic approaches to changing deleterious drinking.
In was a fortunate accident that I happened to read this in conjunction with a book about the WCTU and during Women's History Month; there wasn't a plan.