Controversy and intense media scrutiny marked Dee Jepsen’s 14 months as President Reagan’s Special Assistant for Public Liaison to women’s organizations, until she resigned in October 1983 to work for the unsuccessful reelection campaign of her husband. Senator Roger Jepsen of Iowa. President Reagan’s extemporaneous remark that “if it weren’t for women, men would still be walking around in skin suits and carrying clubs” and the vigorous debate over the perceived “gender gap” made life at the White House challenging for Mrs. Jepsen. Feminists criticized her conservative politics and opposition to the ERA, and (not surprisingly) she quickly became the object of unflattering stories in the Washington Post.

Mrs. Jepsen’s book, however, does not focus on her time at the White House. Instead, it thoughtfully critiques militant feminism and asserts that women can only discover their true identity in Christianity:

Some women had been looking for their identity in the wrong place before, only in their husbands and children. Now many merely shifted the search, seeking identity in their work—their careers. True identity is not to be found in either place.

Beyond Equal Rights is not so much a book about women as it is a book about one woman. Dee Jepsen. She allows the reader to confront the difficult choices facing women today by recounting her own story and by introducing the reader to the multitude of women she has dealt with during her life as single mother, homemaker, small businesswoman, senator’s aide, and assistant to the President. Born into a poor Iowa farm family at the depth of the Great Depression, Mrs. Jepsen lost her mother at 13. A few years later, she “made the mistake of an early, unfortunate marriage” which produced one child and ended in divorce. After some difficult years, she married Roger Jepsen, himself already father of four. Not long after her second marriage. Dee Jepsen made what she describes as the pivotal decision of her life—accepting Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. And Mrs. Jepsen has needed plenty of Christian charity to turn the other cheek when attacked by the leaders of what Patrick Buchanan aptly describes as “humorless feminism”:

On several occasions, I have been in meetings with professional women who could be considered feminists and have seen some among them with joyless, tight-mouthed faces. Their obvious animosity caused me to wonder, Why do you hate me? I don’t agree with you on everything, but I don’t dislike you.

According to Jepsen, these toughfaced women are becoming exactly like the insensitive, dictatorial men they once found so offensive. Without question or reservation, they believed the feminist argument that if they received a good education, worked hard and had a successful career, they would be happy. They now sense something is amiss in their lives, and that gnawing realization only heightens their anger at men and the world.

Mrs. Jepsen devotes the bulk of her book to testifying of the need for modern women to reject the hate, envy, and greed which infect many feminists and to accept Christ. Unfortunately, the last several chapters bog down in preachy repetition. But the first third of the book, which recounts the history of feminism and outlines the opportunities today available to women, is recommended reading for all veterans of the “sex wars.”

Like millions of American women. Dee Jepsen has heard the seemingly contradictory messages: be independent and get married, have children and pursue a career. While sorting through the various messages, she found her answer and is compelled to share it with us. Regrettably, the book doesn’t make for particularly compelling or exciting reading, but it does convey a sincere desire to understand the needs of women. Through Dee Jepsen’s eyes, we see a neglected side of the women’s rights debate.


[Women: Beyond Equal Rights, by Dee Jepsen; Word Books; Waco, TX]