“Transforming Spaces” is a series about women driving change in sometimes unexpected places.

Geena Davis and her family were returning from dinner in their small Massachusetts town when her great-uncle Jack, 99, began drifting into the oncoming lane of traffic. Ms. Davis was about 8, flanked by her parents in the back seat. Politeness suffused the car, the family, maybe the era, and nobody remarked on what was happening, even when another car appeared in the distance, speeding toward them.

Finally, moments before impact, Ms. Davis’s grandmother issued a gentle suggestion from the passenger seat: “A little to the right, Jack.” They missed by inches.

Ms. Davis, 67, relayed this story in her 2022 memoir, “Dying of Politeness,” an encapsulation of the genially stultifying values that she had absorbed as a child — and that a great many other girls absorb, too: Defer. Go along to get along. Everything’s fine.

Of course the two-time

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