<\body> Stories in America: The Making of a 'Militant' Feminist

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Making of a 'Militant' Feminist

The Nation is running articles written anonymously by feminists (they didn't call themselves feminists) in the 1920s. These are fun to read. Many of them could've been written today:
A profound horror of the woman's life filled me. Nothing terrified me so much as the thought of marriage and child-bearing. Marriages seemed to me, at least so far as women were concerned, the cruelest of traps. Yet most women married and all seemed to want to marry. Those who remained single often changed into something more repellent than those charmless drudges. I made all kinds of resolutions against matrimony. All the time, though, I was helplessly asking myself, how was I going to fight it--when I so loved companionship?

One way, I decided, was not to let myself get caught in any of those pretty meshes which threaten young womanhood. I made a vow that I would never sew, embroider, crochet, knit--especially would I never learn to cook. I made a vow that if those things had to be done, I would earn the money to pay for them. I married, but I kept my vow. I have always paid for them. Even in a young marriage, when income was very limited, I went without clothes to keep a maid. And although I happen to be extremely domestic in that I must have a home and much prefer to stay in it, I have always managed that the work of that home should be done by someone else, and that my clothes should be made outside it.

Through all this spiritual turmoil there had been developing within me a desire to write. And during all these years, I was making a tentative experiment with the august business of reflecting the life about me. Ultimately my first short story was accepted; more short stories; a book; more books. Except for three or four years, my mature life has been economically independent. I hope be be economically independent the rest of my days. When I look back on my fifty-odd years of life on this planet, I wonder what was the real inception of my desire to stand alone--fighting ancestry; liberal influences; discussion-ridden youth? Perhaps it was those Sunday dinners!


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