I was perusing an op shop the other day, as I frequently do, when I discovered a gem of a book hidden in the overcrowded shelves. ‘Women of Words’ revealed itself to me and I snatched it up to determine the premise. ‘A personal introduction to more than forty important writers’ the front cover read. Edited by Janet Bukovinsky Teacher.
I am deeply interested in reading female authors, watching female written and led movies and TV shows, so there was no doubt this book was right up my street. I paid the princely sum of two dollars and made my way home, rather impressed with my find.
Reading the work of other writers has always been a great source of inspiration for me and having my writer’s notebook nearby as I read has been critical for my recording of words, sentences and ideas that appeal to me as I go. I knew this book was going to yield an abundance of literary treasures, so I sat down, pen and notebook at the ready and began to read.
The first author to be examined was Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) who was, quite scandalously at the time, a huge advocate for women’s rights. In 1792 Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which is considered one of the first feminist works in modern English literature. She had revolutionary views on abortion and divorce, and was, by all accounts, a woman of formidable intelligence. She died soon after giving birth to her second daughter – Mary Shelley, who went on to write the incredible novel, Frankenstein. What a family!
Women of words goes on to share an excerpt from one of Wollstonecraft’s works; a letter included in her book titled A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The letter and her journey show her to be an adventurous, forthright woman who lived her life the way she wanted to. One particular passage stopped me in my tracks as it seemed to be still so relevant today. However I hasten to add that in today’s world, both women AND men, fall victim to this:
My clothes, in their turn, attracted the attention of the females; and I could not help thinking of the foolish vanity which makes many women so proud of the observation of strangers as to take wonder very gratuitously for admiration. This error they are very apt to fall into; when arrived in a foreign country, the populace stare at them as they pass; yet the make of the cap, or the singularity of a gown, is often the cause of the flattering attention, which afterwards supports a fantastic superstructure of self-conceit.Mary Wollstonecraft
Oh what a line – ‘which afterwards supports a fantastic superstructure of self-conceit’. It makes me think immediately of people at the gym, who stare longingly at their own selves in the mirror palace for extended periods of time, while others, who may glance at them from time to time, do so out of sheer wonder, rather than envy or attraction.
Here again you can see the power of the writer’s notebook – scratching down incredible lines like that one and allowing it to lead you in your own direction, is a gift that writer’s really can’t live without.
I am going to keep reading Women and Words, learning about remarkable writers and expanding my writer’s notebook as I go. The next author is Jane Austen and, I’m not shy to say, I am a superfan. I love her writing, her descriptions of the social intricacies of the time, the humour in her words. I shall keep you posted on the women I encounter throughout the book and will share some of my particular favourites as I go.
As for you, are you reading anything at the moment? Do you keep your writer’s notebook handy to save those all too fleeting thoughts? Feel free to share any wonderful words, phrases or ideas that bloom as you read the work of another writer. Until next time, enjoy some tea and some writing xx