Sumeet Bal
October 03, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Hear ”New York Times” editorial-page editor Gail Collins roar through history in America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines (HarperCollins, $27.95). Don’t be ”Ms.” -led by the 537-page length; here are some highlights.

— In the 1670s, Virginia governor William Berkeley reputedly bought gifts for his sexually demanding younger wife, Lady Frances, to make up for his inadequacies in bed.

— Harriet Hubbard Ayer developed a face cream in 1886 that became so popular, her ex-husband and daughter tried to have her committed so they could take over the company.

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