Sunday 31 May 2009

The Mistress Bookshelf: Christine de Pizan (1363 - c. 1434)

Writer of lyrical poetry and of the polemic and equally pioneering "The Book of the City of Ladies":

"I had to accept their unfavorable opinion."

[From the opening. Christine is trying to understand the discrepancy between what she had read about women and her own experience. It is the depressing conclusion that she describes here that her visitors, Reason, Rectitude and Justice, will have to refute:]

No matter which way I looked at it and no matter how much I turned the matter over in my mind, I could find no evidence from my own experience to bear out such a negative view of female nature and habits. Even so, given that I could scarcely find a moral work by any author which didn't devote some chapter or paragraph to attacking the female sex, I had to accept their unfavorable opinion of women since it was unlikely that so many learned men, who seemed to be endowed with such great intelligence and insight into all things, could possible have lied on so many different occasions.... Thus I preferred to give more weight to what others said than to trust my own judgement and experience. [p.6]

original manuscript of The Book of the City of Ladies


De Pizan instructing her son

L'Avision-Christine (1405-06)

[L'Avision-Christine is an allegorical dream vision in which Christine learns about the history of France, its present problems, and the meaning of her own life. This translation by Glenda McLeod and Charity Cannon Willard is based on a new edition of the work and so supersedes a 1993 version by McLeod. Willard's introduction summarizes Christine's life; McLeod's notes and interpretive essay incorporate newer research. The bibliography includes an annotated list of relevant critical studies (the annotations especially valuable for the French-language studies included):]

The vision of Christine de Pizan / translated from the French by Glenda McLeod, Charity Cannon Willard; with notes and interpretive essay by Glenda McLeod (Library of medieval women, 1369-9652). Cambridge: Brewer, 2005. (viii, 188 p.)
LC#: PQ1575.A954 E5 2005x; ISBN: 1843840588
Includes bibliographical references (p. [159]-174) and index

"An amazing vision overcame me."

[The opening:]

I had already passed halfway through the journey of my pilgrimage when one day at eventide I found myself fatigued by the long road and desirous of shelter. As I had arrived here eager for slumber, after I had said grace and taken and received the nourishment necessary for human life, recommending myself to the author of all things I betook myself to a bed of troubled rest.

Soon thereafter, my senses bound by the weight of sleep, an amazing vision overcame me in the sign of a strange prophecy; even though I am hardly Nebuchadnezzar, Scipio, or Joseph, the secrets of the Almighty are not denied the truly simple. [Book 1, section 1; p.18]

source:, click on the link that is this post's title to find out more!

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

"The only tired I was, was tired of giving in." (on refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white male)

Bessie Smith (1895-1937)

Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)

"Standing with one foot poised on the highest point of the Rockies, her two hands stretched out from the Atlantic to the Pacific, her fine head tossed to the sky, her forehead shining with a crown of a million stars."
Isadora Duncan
The Art of Dance

"Imagine then a dancer who, after long study, prayer and inspiration, has attained such a degree of understanding that his body is simply the luminous manifestation of his soul; whose body dances in accordance with a music heard inwardly, in an expression of something out of another, profounder world. This is the truly creative dancer; natural but not imitative, speaking in movement out of himself and out of something greater than all selves."
Isadora Duncan
The Philosopher's Stone of Dancing, 1920

"I spent long days and nights in the studio, seeking that dance which might be the divine expression of the human spirit through the medium of the body's movement. For hours I would stand quite still, my two hands folded between my breast, covering the solar plexus… I was seeking and finally discovered the central spring of all movement, the crater of motor power, the unity from which all diversions of movement are born, the mirror of vision for the creation of dance."
Isadora Duncan
My Life, 1928


Martha Graham (1894-1991)

“I wanted to begin not with characters or ideas, but with movements . . .I wanted significant movement. I did not want it to be beautiful or fluid. I wanted it to be fraught with inner meaning, with excitement and surge.”

–Martha Graham

Martha Graham’s impact on dance was staggering and often compared to that of Picasso’s on painting, Stravinsky’s on music, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s on architecture. Her contributions transformed the art form, revitalizing and expanding dance around the world. In her search to express herself freely and honestly, she created the Martha Graham Dance Company, one of the oldest dance troupes in America. As a teacher, Graham trained and inspired generations of fine dancers and choreographers. Her pupils included such greats as Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, and countless other performers, actors, and dancers. She collaborated with some of the foremost artists of her time including the composer Aaron Copland and the sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

Born in 1894 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Graham spent most of her formative years on the West coast. Her father, a doctor specializing in nervous disorders, was very interested in diagnosis through attention to physical movement. This belief in the body’s ability to express its inner senses was pivotal in Graham’s desire to dance. Athletic as a young girl, Graham did not find her calling until she was in her teens. In 1911, the ballet dancer Ruth St. Denis performed at the Mason Opera House in Los Angeles. Inspired by St. Denis’ performance, Graham enrolled in an arts-oriented junior college, and later to the newly opened Denishawn School. Denishawn was founded by Ruth St. Denis and her husband Ted Shawn to teach techniques of American and world dance. Over eight years, as both a student and an instructor, Graham made Denishawn her home.

Working primarily with Ted Shawn, Graham improved her technique and began dancing professionally. In “Xochital”, a dance made specifically for her by Shawn, Graham danced the role of an attacked Aztec maiden. It was the wildly emotional performance of this role that garnered her first critical acclaim. By 1923, eight years after entering Denishawn, she was ready to branch out. She found her chance dancing in the vaudeville revue Greenwich Village Follies. At the Greenwich Village Follies, Graham was able to design and choreograph her own dances. Though this work provided her with some economic and artistic independence, she longed for a place to make greater experiments with dance. It was then that she took a position at the Eastman School of Music, where she was free of the constraints of public performance. At Eastman, Graham was given complete control over her classes and the entire dance program. Graham saw this as an opportunity to engage her best pupils in the experiential dance she was beginning to create.

These first experimentations at Eastman proved to be the sparks of a new mode of dance that would revolutionize theories of movement in all of the performing arts. For Graham, ballet’s concern with flow and grace left behind more violent traditional passions. Graham believed that through spastic movements, tremblings, and falls she could express emotional and spiritual themes ignored by other dance. She desired to evoke strong emotions, and achieved these visceral responses through the repetition of explicitly sexual and violently disjunctive movements. Beginning with her Eastman students, she formed the now famous Martha Graham School for Contemporary Dance in New York. One of the early pieces of the company was “Frontier” (1935), a solo performance about the pioneer woman. This piece brought together the two men who would be close collaborators throughout her life. Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese-American sculptor, created a sparse and beautiful design that replaced flat backdrops with three-dimensional objects. Together Graham and Noguchi revolutionized set design through this inclusion of sculpture. “Frontier” also included the sound design of Louis Horst, a close friend and strong influence throughout Graham’s life.

Soon after “Frontier”,Graham brought a young ballet dancer named Erick Hawkins into the company. Together they appeared in one of her major works, “American Document” (1938). For the next ten years he would remain with the company and perform in many of her great pieces. The most famous work from this period was “Appalachian Spring” (1944), for which Aaron Copland wrote the score. In 1948 Graham and Hawkins married, but the marriage was short-lived. They continued to work together for a while and then made a permanent break. After this break, Graham plunged deeper into her work and in 1955 presented the world with one of her greatest pieces, “Seraphic Dialogue”. “Seraphic Dialogue” was a powerful and moving version of the story of Joan of Arc. Throughout Graham’s career she would return again and again to the struggles and triumphs of both great and ordinary women. Despite her age, she continued to dance throughout the 60s. It was not until 1969 that Graham announced her retirement from the stage.

For Graham, however, life away from dance was impossible. Though no longer able to perform she continued to teach and choreograph until her death in 1991. It is nearly impossible to track the influence of Martha Graham. Everyone from Woody Allen to Bette Davis cites her as a major influence. She is universally understood to be the twentieth century’s most important dancer, and the mother of modern dance. She performed at the White House for Franklin Roosevelt, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor. She was the first choreographer to regularly employ both Asian- and African-American Dancers. Her contributions to the art of stage design and dance production are countless. Martha Graham’s continued experimentation and her constant attention to human emotion, frailty, and perseverance, is one of the greatest individual achievements in American cultural history.

Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992)

MASP, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo

Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973)

Anita Malfatti (1889-1964)

Camille Claudel (1864-1943)

As a young woman, Camille Claudel was recognized for both her artistic talent and her physical beauty; nevertheless, she spent most of her adult life as a recluse. Much attention has been focused on Claudel's relationship with her teacher, mentor, and lover, Auguste Rodin. Her complex personal drama has brought her prominence through scholarly and popular accounts. Yet it was first and foremost her unrivaled ability to convey narrative through marble and bronze that attracted patrons and critical accolades.

Born in Fère-en-Tardenois, Aisne, Claudel moved with her family to Paris around 1881. She studied sculpture at the Académie Colarossi, one of the few art academies in France open to female students. Along with other sculptors, she also shared an independent studio where Alfred Boucher taught. In 1883 Boucher won a Prix de Rome and departed for Italy; he asked Rodin to serve as adviser to Claudel and her colleagues in his stead.

Two years later, Rodin asked Claudel to become a studio assistant. By working as Rodin's apprentice, Claudel had the chance to study the nude figure, an unusual opportunity for a woman in the 19th century, but one that gave the artist a profound understanding of anatomical nuances. Claudel modeled hands and feet for Rodin's Burghers of Calais and posed for figures in his Gates of Hell.

In 1893, because Rodin's work and stature occupied front stage in French culture, Claudel secluded herself in her studio to disassociate herself from him and to try to establish her own reputation. Her love for portraying the human form resulted in certain sculptures that the state and an infuriated press censored as overly sensual and inappropriate for public display. These circumstances may have contributed to the decline of her career and her mental state. In 1913 Claudel was committed to a mental asylum, where she remained until her death 30 years later.

source: National Museum of Women in the Arts

Saturday 30 May 2009


The Association for
F eminist
E pistemologies,
M ethodologies,
M etaphysics and
S cience
S tudies

link below (site still under construction):

Marie Curie (1867- 1934)

Nobel Prize in Physics 1903

Marie Curie, née Maria Sklodowska, was born in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, the daughter of a secondary-school teacher. She received a general education in local schools and some scientific training from her father. She became involved in a students' revolutionary organization and found it prudent to leave Warsaw, then in the part of Poland dominated by Russia, for Cracow, which at that time was under Austrian rule. In 1891, she went to Paris to continue her studies at the Sorbonne where she obtained Licenciateships in Physics and the Mathematical Sciences. She met Pierre Curie, Professor in the School of Physics in 1894 and in the following year they were married. She succeeded her husband as Head of the Physics Laboratory at the Sorbonne, gained her Doctor of Science degree in 1903, and following the tragic death of Pierre Curie in 1906, she took his place as Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences, the first time a woman had held this position. She was also appointed Director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris, founded in 1914.

Her early researches, together with her husband, were often performed under difficult conditions, laboratory arrangements were poor and both had to undertake much teaching to earn a livelihood. The discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel in 1896 inspired the Curies in their brilliant researches and analyses which led to the isolation of polonium, named after the country of Marie's birth, and radium. Mme. Curie developed methods for the separation of radium from radioactive residues in sufficient quantities to allow for its characterization and the careful study of its properties, therapeutic properties in particular.

Mme. Curie throughout her life actively promoted the use of radium to alleviate suffering and during World War I, assisted by her daughter, Irene, she personally devoted herself to this remedial work. She retained her enthusiasm for science throughout her life and did much to establish a radioactivity laboratory in her native city - in 1929 President Hoover of the United States presented her with a gift of $ 50,000, donated by American friends of science, to purchase radium for use in the laboratory in Warsaw.

Mme. Curie, quiet, dignified and unassuming, was held in high esteem and admiration by scientists throughout the world. She was a member of the Conseil du Physique Solvay from 1911 until her death and since 1922 she had been a member of the Committee of Intellectual Co-operation of the League of Nations. Her work is recorded in numerous papers in scientific journals and she is the author of Recherches sur les Substances Radioactives (1904), L'Isotopie et les Éléments Isotopes and the classic Traité' de Radioactivité (1910).

The importance of Mme. Curie's work is reflected in the numerous awards bestowed on her. She received many honorary science, medicine and law degrees and honorary memberships of learned societies throughout the world. Together with her husband, she was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, for their study into the spontaneous radiation discovered by Becquerel, who was awarded the other half of the Prize. In 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry, in recognition of her work in radioactivity. She also received, jointly with her husband, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society in 1903 and, in 1921, President Harding of the United States, on behalf of the women of America, presented her with one gram of radium in recognition of her service to science.

Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)

Meret Oppenheim (1913-1985)

Born in Berlin in 1913, Oppenheim passed her childhood in Switzerland and southern Germany where her father, a doctor long interested in Jung's ideas, had a country medical practice.

Her aunt had at one time been married to Herman Hesse; her grandmother had studied painting in Dusseldorf in the 1880s and later became well known as a writer of novels and children's stories and as an activist in the Swiss League for Women's Rights.

Oppenheim took the latter's example to heart, decided at an early age not to marry at all or at least not until later in life, and began hiding a sketchbook inside her hymnal during long and tedious church services.

At sixteen, stimulated by an exhibition of Bauhaus work at the Basel Kunsthalle that included the number paintings of Paul Klee, she produced her first "surrealist" work, an equation between X and a drawing of a rabbit in a school notebook. She wouki later present this first Cahier d'une Ecoliere to the Surrealist leader, Andre Breton.

Leaving school the following year, Oppenheim met some of the artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit and began making pen and ink watercolors, many of which have an air of expressive caricature not unlike that of Klee's early etchings.

She arrived in Paris in May 1932, rented a room at the Hotel Odessa in Montparnasse, and enrolled briefly at the Academic de la Grande Chaumiere.

Soon bored by the academic routine at the academy, she began to spend her days in galleries and cafes, writing her first poems in the Cafe du Dome where she met Giacometti in 1933. Through him she met Sophie Taeuber and Hans Arp, Kurt Seligmann and Max Ernst. Giacometti and Arp became her first artistic mentors; Ernst and Man Ray her intimate companions.

Giacometti, who was earning a living making furniture and objects, encouraged her to make her first Surrealist object, a small piece titled Giacometti's Ear (1933). He and Arp invited her to exhibit with them at the Salon des Surindependents in 1933; after that she frequented Surrealist meetings and gatherings, increasingly identifying her life and her art with the movement.

Her youth and beauty, her free spirit and uninhibited behavior, her precarious walks on the ledges of high buildings, and the "surrealist" food she concocted from marzipan in her studio, all contributed to the creation of an image of the Surrealist woman as beautiful, independent, and creative.

But this public persona was of little help, in fact was almost certainly a hindrance, in her search for artistic maturity. The objects that insured her place in subsequent histories of the movement offer flashes of brilliance rather than evidence of sustained artistic growth, and she was, even at that time, conflicted and uncertain about her life as an artist.

She had been named after the Meretlein or "Little Meret" of Gottfried Keller's story Green Henry.

Participated in Surrealist meetings and exhibitions until 1937 and again, more sporadically, after the war until shortly before Breton's death in 1966.

First one-woman exhibition at the Galerie Schulthess, Basel, in 1933.

Her fur-lined teacup, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1937, was chosen by visitors to the exhibition as the quintessential Surrealist symbol.

Oppenheim's return to Basel in 1937 marked the beginning of an eighteen-year period of artistic crisis and redirection.

In 1939 she took part in an exhibition of fantastic furniture with Leonor Fini, Max Ernst, and others at the Galerie Rene Druin and Leo Castelli in Paris.

A major retrospective of her work was organized by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1967.

For the latter part of her life, lived and worked in Berne and Paris.


Natalja Goncharova (1881-1962)

Nathalia Goncharova was one of leaders of Russian Avant-Garde.

She studied at the faculty of sculpture at MUZhVS (Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture) under Volnukhin and Trubetskoy (1898-1909). She has also studied painting by herself and had the help of K.Korovin and M.Larionov.

From 1906 the artist has taken part in the organization of exhibitions, in which she also participated, including "The Golden Fleece" (1908-1910), Union of Youth (1909-1913), Jack of Diamonds (1910), Postimpressionists (London, 1912), Blaue Reiter (München, 1912), Donkey's Tail (1912), Target (1913), "First Germany Salon d'Automne" (Berlin, 1913), "No.4. Futurists, Rayonists, Primitive" (1914), International Exhibitions (Venice, 1906, 1920) and others.

She designed and illustrated futuristic books.

Together with Mikhail Larionov, she organized exhibitions and societies, and was one of the founders of the Neo-Primitivism (from 1907), and Luchism (Rayonism, 1912-1914) movements.

Goncharova has worked in theatres and designed "Zobeida's wedding" (1904), "The Golden Cock" by Rimsky-Korsakov (1914), "The Fan" Goldoni (1915), The "Firebird" by Stravinsky (1926). Searved as head decorator of S.Diagilev's enterprise till 1929. At his invitation (1915) together with Larionov traveled to Switzerland, Italy and Paris.

Finally, she has left Moscow to live in Paris (1919).

Her works were shown in personal exhibitions in Russia/USSR and abroad including Moscow (1913, 1969), Petrograd (1914), Paris (1904, 1914,1956) and London (1962).

Lygia Clark (1920-1988)

Lygia began by asking questions in her painting about the relation between figure and background, and that aesthetic investigation ended up transforming itself into the ethical question par excellence: what is the nature of the distance between my body and the world? Why can't the body - not only the body of the subject, but the very social body - free itself of pain?

Without divorcing itself from aesthetic preoccupations, Clark's project clearly attempts to escape from the limits of art. It remains a singular phenomenon in that through one and the same movement, it pretends to leave behind both representative language and the institution of art, which seems to be so close to the market in the modern episteme.

Nevertheless, the same characteristics of the investigation which led her to the development of these relational objects, the fact that these are nothing more than a series of artistic manipulations, suspend that escape which appears interminable and anchor Clark's therapy firmly in the world of art, the only context in which her project acquires the fullness of its power. The healing, here, is nothing if not an interminable process of emancipation which is permanently begun again. And the illness - that malaise which affects the institution of art - is the knot that binds the object of art, pure absence, to the market that transforms it into the mere representation of a certain content, a carrier of an appreciable value, and therefore a commodified good. Clark did not tire of saying that the relational objects only acquired their specificity once they came into contact with the fantasies of her "patients." They were, therefore, nothing but the tentative and changing corporealizations of the patients' projections. When the object loses its specificity as a good and acquires it in relation to the psychological structure of the subject, then there is art, that is, there exists the possibility of a healing. Lygia's work - the word appears almost insufficient to comprehend that last stage of work with "patients" - constitutes itself therefore as radical critique of the notion of presence.

If we understand the problem of healing in Clark's work to be posited in terms of the psychology of the subject, without divorcing itself from the problems implicit in the social function of the artist, one understands that her diagnosis affects the individual and the institution of art in equal parts. And if we agree with Lacan in thinking that the nature of the cure demostrates the nature of the disease, one would have to come to the conclusion that, according to the logic implicit in the aesthetic-existential path taken by Clark, the illness consists in assigning a specific value to experience, in alienating it in discourse, in sum, in making it representable and, therefore, commercializable. Using this perspective, her formulation for a cure consists in the possibility of a tentative access to a non-representable dimension of experience - aesthetic and existential, which in Clark are nothing more than two sides of the same Moebius strip - which, on the other hand, may only manifest itself outside the realm of both the institution of art and psychoanalysis. In the last stage of Clark's work, which she chose to call therapy in order to differentiate it from her artistic production, the ethical and aesthetic dimensions overlap: the cure would have become the daily exercise of utopia.

If we follow strictly the terms of Clark's work we may expect a cure from art. But illness is the ingredient that makes it art in the first place - that is to say, that which enables us to recognize the object as art - and the cure is achieved only by trespassing the world of aesthetics, and perhaps, the density of the world itself. With this perspective, the cure is no longer a state to which it is possible to arrive through the rigors of a specific practice. The cure is barely that moment in which illness reveals itself fully, and healing is nothing but dreaming of forgetting the illness.

Memory, dream, illness. It so happens that the body eventually forgets the marks that illness leaves on the flesh, and that magical process is usually called getting better, recovery, or the cure. The lover forgets his love sickness and falls in love again, delivering himself into the arms of repetition. Or perhaps he never forgets, and the pain becomes heavier and heavier in the mind until that endless memory finally occupies all and organic life ceases, and then, to put it in ordinary language, one dies. Because forgetting is a dream, a utopia, the trick of third rate magician. Like art.

source: project sites on

The Mistress Bookshelf: Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

"A Book"

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

A deeply sensitive woman who questioned the puritanical background of her Calvinist family and soulfully explored her own spirituality, often in poignant, deeply personal poetry. She admired the works of John Keats and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but avoided the florid and romantic style of her time, creating poems of pure and concise imagery, at times witty and sardonic, often boldly frank and illuminating the keen insight she had into the human condition. At times characterised as a semi-invalid, a hermit, a heartbroken introvert, or a neurotic agoraphobic, her poetry is sometimes brooding and sometimes joyous and celebratory. Her sophistication and profound intellect has been lauded by laymen and scholars alike and influenced many other authors and poets into the 21st Century. There has been much speculation and controversy over details of Dickinson’s life including her sexual orientation, romantic attachments, her later reclusive years, and the editing and publication of various volumes of her poems. This biography serves only as an overview of her life and poetry and leaves the in-depth analysis to the many scholars who have devoted years to the study of Emily Dickinson, the woman and her works.

Emily Dickinson was born into one of Amherst, Massachusetts’ most prominent families on 10 December 1830. She was the second child born to Emily Norcross (1804-1882) and Edward Dickinson (1803-1874), a Yale graduate, successful lawyer, Treasurer for Amherst College and a United States Congressman. Her grandfather Samuel Fowler Dickinson (1775-1838) was a Dartmouth graduate, accomplished lawyer and one of the founders of Amherst College. He also built one of the first brick homes in the New England town on Main Street, which is now a National Historic Landmark ‘The Homestead’ and one of the now preserved Dickinson homes in the Emily Dickinson Historic District.

Emily had an older brother named William Austin Dickinson (1829-1895) (known as Austin) who would marry her most intimate friend Susan Gilbert in 1856. Her younger sister’s name was Lavinia ‘Vinnie’ Norcross Dickinson (1833-1899). The Dickinsons were strong advocates for education and Emily too benefited from an early education in classic literature, studying the writings of Virgil and Latin, mathematics, history, and botany. Until she was ten years old, she and her family lived with her grandfather Samuel and his family on Main Street. In 1840 they moved to North Pleasant Street, Emily’s window overlooking the West Street Cemetery where daily burials occurred. The same year, Emily entered Amherst Academy under the tutelage of scientist and theologian, Edward Hitchcock.

Dickinson proved to be a dazzling student and in 1847, though she was already somewhat of a ‘homebody’, at the age of seventeen Emily left for South Hadley, Massachusetts to attend the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. She stayed there less than a year and some of the theories as to why she left are homesickness and poor health. Another reason some speculate is that when she refused to sign an oath publicly professing her faith in Christ, her ensuing chastisement from Mary Lyon proved to be too much humiliation. Back home in the patriarchal household of aspiring politicians, Emily started to write her first poems. She was in the midst of the college town’s society and bustle although she started to spend more time alone, reading and maintaining lively correspondences with friends and relatives.

In 1855 Emily and her sister spent time in the cities of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the same year her father bought the Main Street home where she was born. He built an addition to The Homestead, replete with gardens and conservatory. Thereafter he held a yearly reception for Amherst College’s commencement, to which Emily made an appearance as the gracious hostess. In 1856 Emily’s brother, now himself a successful Harvard graduate and Amherst lawyer, married her best friend Susan Gilbert. They moved into their home nearby ‘The Evergreens’, a wedding gift from his father. They frequently entertained such guests as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican, who would publish a few of Emily’s poems and become a great friend to her and possible object of affection in some of her poems. In 1862 Dickinson answered a call for poetry submissions in the Atlantic Monthly. She struck up a correspondence with its editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson. He had tried to correct her work, but she refused to alter it, though they soon became friends and it is speculated that Emily also had romantic feelings for him.

Dark times were soon to fall on Emily. In 1864 and 1865 she went to stay with her Norcross cousins in Boston to see an eye doctor whereupon she was forbidden to read or write. It would be the last time she ventured from Amherst. By the early 1870’s Emily’s ailing mother was confined to her bed and Emily and her sister cared for her. Around the time her father Edward died suddenly in 1874 she stopped going out in public though she still kept up her social contacts via correspondence, writing at her desk in her austere bedroom, and seemed to have enjoyed her solitude. She regularly tended the homestead’s gardens and loved to bake, and the neighborhood children sometimes visited her with their rambunctious games. In 1878 her friend Samuel Bowles died and another of her esteemed friends Charles Wadsworth died in 1882, the same year her mother succumbed to her lengthy illness. A year later her brother Austin’s son Gilbert died. Dickinson herself had been afflicted for some time with her own illness affecting the kidneys, Bright’s Disease, symptoms of which include chronic pain and edema, which may have contributed to her seclusion from the outside world.

‘Called Back’: Emily Dickinson died on 15 May 1886, at the age of fifty-six. She now rests in the West Cemetery of Amherst, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Not wishing a church service, a gathering was held at The Homestead. She was buried in one of the white dresses she had taken to wearing in her later years, violets pinned to her collar by Lavinia.

Although many friends including Helen Hunt Jackson had encouraged Dickinson to publish her poetry, only a handful of them appeared publicly during her lifetime. Upon her death her sister Lavinia found hundreds of them tied into ‘fascicles’ stitched together by Emily’s own hand. Some were written in pencil, only a few titled, many unfinished. Lavinia enlisted the aid of Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd to edit them and roughly arrange them chronologically into collections: Poems, Series 1 in 1890, Poems, Series 2 in 1891, and Poems, Series 3 in 1896. The edits were aggressive to standardise punctuation and capitalisation and some poems re-worded, but by and large it was a labour of love. From Thomas Wentworth Higginson's Preface to Poems, Series 1;

--flashes of wholly original and profound insight into nature and life; words and phrases exhibiting an extraordinary vividness of descriptive and imaginative power, yet often set in a seemingly whimsical or even rugged frame....the main quality of these poems is that of extraordinary grasp and insight.


For more information, visit Emily Dickinson Electronic Archive.

Eudora Welty (1909-2001)

extract from "Why I live at the P.O." (1941)

"I WAS GETTING ALONG FINE with Mama, Papa-Daddy and Uncle Rondo until my sister Stella-Rondo just separated from her husband and came back home again. Mr. Whitaker! Of course I went with Mr. Whitaker first, when he first appeared here in China Grove, taking "Pose Yourself" photos, and Stella-Rondo broke us up. Told him I was one-sided. Bigger on one side than the other, which is a deliberate, calculated falsehood: I'm the same. Stella-Rondo is exactly twelve months to the day younger than I am and for that reason she's spoiled. She's always had anything in the world she wanted and then she'd throw it away. Papa-Daddy gave her this gorgeous Add-a-Pearl necklace when she was eight years old and she threw it away playing baseball when she was nine, with only two pearls. So as soon as she got married and moved away from home the first thing she did was separate! From Mr. Whitaker! This photographer with the popeyes she said she trusted. Came home from one of those towns up in Illinois and to our complete surprise brought this child of two. Mama said she like to made her drop dead for a second. "Here you had this marvelous blonde child and never so much as wrote your mother a word about it," says Mama. "I'm thoroughly ashamed of you." But of course she wasn't. Stella-Rondo just calmly takes off this hat, I wish you could see it. She says, "Why, Mama, Shirley-T.'s adopted, I can prove it." "How?" says Mama, but all I says was, "H'm!" There I was over the hot stove, trying to stretch two chickens over five people and a completely unexpected child into the bargain, without one moment's notice. "What do you mean 'H'm!'?" says Stella-Rondo, and Mama says, "I heard that, Sister." I said that oh, I didn't mean a thing, only that whoever Shirley-T. was, she was the spit-image of Papa-Daddy if he'd cut off his beard, which of course he'd never do in the world. Papa-Daddy's Mama's papa and sulks. Stella-Rondo got furious! She said, "Sister, I don't need to tell you you got a lot of nerve and always did have and I'll thank you to make no future reference to my adopted child whatsoever." "Very well," I said. "Very well, very well. Of course I noticed at once she looks like Mr. Whitaker's side too. That frown. She looks like a cross between Mr. Whitaker and Papa-Daddy." "Well, all I can say is she isn't." "She looks exactly like Shirley Temple to me," says Mama, but Shirley-T. just ran away from her. So the first thing Stella-Rondo did at the table was turn Papa-Daddy against me. "Papa-Daddy," she says. He was trying to cut up his meat. "Papa-Daddy!" I was taken completely by surprise. Papa-Daddy is about a million years old and's got this long-long beard. "Papa-Daddy, Sister says she fails to understand why you don't cut off your beard." So Papa-Daddy l-a-y-s down his knife and fork! He's real rich. Mama says he is, he says he isn't. So he says, "Have I heard correctly? You don't understand why I don't cut off my beard?" "Why," I says, "Papa-Daddy, of course I understand, I did not say any such of a thing, the idea!" He says, "Hussy!" I says, "Papa-Daddy, you know I wouldn't any more want you to cut off your beard than the man in the moon. It was the farthest thing from my mind! Stella-Rondo sat there and made that up while she was eating breast of chicken." But he says, "So the postmistress fails to understand why I don't cut off my beard. Which job I got you through my influence with the government. 'Bird's nest' is that what you call it?" Not that it isn't the next to smallest P.O. in the entire state of Mississippi. I says, "Oh, Papa-Daddy," I says, "I didn't say any such of a thing, I never dreamed it was a bird's nest, I have always been grateful though this is the next to smallest P.O. in the state of Mississippi, and I do not enjoy being referred to as a hussy by my own grandfather." But Stella-Rondo says, "Yes, you did say it too. Anybody in the world could of heard you, that had ears." "Stop right there," says Mama, looking at me. So I pulled my napkin straight back through the napkin ring and left the table. As soon as I was out of the room Mama says, "Call her back, or she'll starve to death," but Papa-Daddy says, "This is the beard I started growing on the Coast when I was fifteen years old.'' He would of gone on till nightfall if Shirley-T. hadn't lost the Milky Way she ate in Cairo."

George Eliot - pseudonym of Mary Anne or Marian Evans-(1819-1880)

When her identity was finally revealed (critics at first believing her to be a clergyman or clergyman's wife), critical reaction was torn between condemning intellectual pretension in a woman and recognising her accomplishment: domestic realism, moral urgency and deep reflection. In 1859, Adam Bede was attacked as the "vile outpourings of a lewd woman's mind" and withdrawn from libraries, but by the end of her life she was recognised as the greatest living English novelist, particularly admired by Turgenev and Henry James (and Queen Victoria). In 1883 Blackwood's Magazine declared that "Middlemarch gives George Eliot the chiefest claim to stand by the side of Shakespeare". Her reputation waned briefly but was reignited by praise from Virginia Woolf (Middlemarch was "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people") and FR Leavis. source:

extract from "The Lifted Veil" (1859)

Chapter I:

"The time of my end approaches. I have lately been subject to attacks of angina pectoris; and in the ordinary course of things, my physician tells me, I may fairly hope that my life will not be protracted many months. Unless, then, I am cursed with an exceptional physical constitution, as I am cursed with an exceptional mental character, I shall not much longer groan under the wearisome burthen of this earthly existence. If it were to be otherwise--if I were to live on to the age most men desire and provide for--I should for once have known whether the miseries of delusive expectation can outweigh the miseries of true provision. For I foresee when I shall die, and everything that will happen in my last moments.
Just a month from this day, on September 20, 1850, I shall be sitting in this chair, in this study, at ten o'clock at night, longing to die, weary of incessant insight and foresight, without delusions and without hope. Just as I am watching a tongue of blue flame rising in the fire, and my lamp is burning low, the horrible contraction will begin at my chest. I shall only have time to reach the bell, and pull it violently, before the sense of suffocation will come. No one will answer my bell. I know why. My two servants are lovers, and will have quarrelled. My housekeeper will have rushed out of the house in a fury, two hours before, hoping that Perry will believe she has gone to drown herself. Perry is alarmed at last, and is gone out after her. The little scullery-maid is asleep on a bench: she never answers the bell; it does not wake her. The sense of suffocation increases: my lamp goes out with a horrible stench: I make a great effort, and snatch at the bell again. I long for life, and there is no help. I thirsted for the unknown: the thirst is gone. O God, let me stay with the known, and be weary of it: I am content. Agony of pain and suffocation--and all the while the earth, the fields, the pebbly brook at the bottom of the rookery, the fresh scent after the rain, the light of the morning through my chamber-window, the warmth of the hearth after the frosty air--will darkness close over them for ever?
Darkness--darkness--no pain--nothing but darkness: but I am passing on and on through the darkness: my thought stays in the darkness, but always with a sense of moving onward . . .
Before that time comes, I wish to use my last hours of ease and strength in telling the strange story of my experience. I have never fully unbosomed myself to any human being; I have never been encouraged to trust much in the sympathy of my fellow-men. But we have all a chance of meeting with some pity, some tenderness, some charity, when we are dead: it is the living only who cannot be forgiven--the living only from whom men's indulgence and reverence are held off, like the rain by the hard east wind. While the heart beats, bruise it--it is your only opportunity; while the eye can still turn towards you with moist, timid entreaty, freeze it with an icy unanswering gaze; while the ear, that delicate messenger to the inmost sanctuary of the soul, can still take in the tones of kindness, put it off with hard civility, or sneering compliment, or envious affectation of indifference; while the creative brain can still throb with the sense of injustice, with the yearning for brotherly recognition--make haste--oppress it with your ill- considered judgements, your trivial comparisons, your careless misrepresentations. The heart will by and by be still--"ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit"; the eye will cease to entreat; the ear will be deaf; the brain will have ceased from all wants as well as from all work. Then your charitable speeches may find vent; then you may remember and pity the toil and the struggle and the failure; then you may give due honour to the work achieved; then you may find extenuation for errors, and may consent to bury them.
That is a trivial schoolboy text; why do I dwell on it? It has little reference to me, for I shall leave no works behind me for men to honour. I have no near relatives who will make up, by weeping over my grave, for the wounds they inflicted on me when I was among them. It is only the story of my life that will perhaps win a little more sympathy from strangers when I am dead, than I ever believed it would obtain from my friends while I was living.
My childhood perhaps seems happier to me than it really was, by contrast with all the after-years. For then the curtain of the future was as impenetrable to me as to other children: I had all their delight in the present hour, their sweet indefinite hopes for the morrow; and I had a tender mother: even now, after the dreary lapse of long years, a slight trace of sensation accompanies the remembrance of her caress as she held me on her knee--her arms round my little body, her cheek pressed on mine. I had a complaint of the eyes that made me blind for a little while, and she kept me on her knee from morning till night. That unequalled love soon vanished out of my life, and even to my childish consciousness it was as if that life had become more chill I rode my little white pony with the groom by my side as before, but there were no loving eyes looking at me as I mounted, no glad arms opened to me when I came back. Perhaps I missed my mother's love more than most children of seven or eight would have done, to whom the other pleasures of life remained as before; for I was certainly a very sensitive child. I remember still the mingled trepidation and delicious excitement with which I was affected by the tramping of the horses on the pavement in the echoing stables, by the loud resonance of the groom's voices, by the booming bark of the dogs as my father's carriage thundered under the archway of the courtyard, by the din of the gong as it gave notice of luncheon and dinner. The measured tramp of soldiery which I sometimes heard--for my father's house lay near a county town where there were large barracks--made me sob and tremble; and yet when they were gone past, I longed for them to come back again.
I fancy my father thought me an odd child, and had little fondness for me; though he was very careful in fulfilling what he regarded as a parent's duties. But he was already past the middle of life, and I was not his only son. My mother had been his second wife, and he was five-and-forty when he married her. He was a firm, unbending, intensely orderly man, in root and stem a banker, but with a flourishing graft of the active landholder, aspiring to county influence: one of those people who are always like themselves from day to day, who are uninfluenced by the weather, and neither know melancholy nor high spirits. I held him in great awe, and appeared more timid and sensitive in his presence than at other times; a circumstance which, perhaps, helped to confirm him in the intention to educate me on a different plan from the prescriptive one with which he had complied in the case of my elder brother, already a tall youth at Eton. My brother was to be his representative and successor; he must go to Eton and Oxford, for the sake of making connexions, of course: my father was not a man to underrate the bearing of Latin satirists or Greek dramatists on the attainment of an aristocratic position. But, intrinsically, he had slight esteem for "those dead but sceptred spirits"; having qualified himself for forming an independent opinion by reading Potter's Aeschylus, and dipping into Francis's Horace. To this negative view he added a positive one, derived from a recent connexion with mining speculations; namely, that a scientific education was the really useful training for a younger son. Moreover, it was clear that a shy, sensitive boy like me was not fit to encounter the rough experience of a public school. Mr. Letherall had said so very decidedly. Mr. Letherall was a large man in spectacles, who one day took my small head between his large hands, and pressed it here and there in an exploratory, auspicious manner--then placed each of his great thumbs on my temples, and pushed me a little way from him, and stared at me with glittering spectacles. The contemplation appeared to displease him, for he frowned sternly, and said to my father, drawing his thumbs across my eyebrows -
"The deficiency is there, sir--there; and here," he added, touching the upper sides of my head, "here is the excess. That must be brought out, sir, and this must be laid to sleep."'

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)


Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.
She left the rosy morn,
She left the fields of corn,
For twilight cold and lorn
And water springs.
Through sleep, as through a veil,
She sees the sky look pale,
And hears the nightingale
That sadly sings.
Rest, rest, a perfect rest
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.
She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.
Rest, rest, for evermore
Upon a mossy shore;
Rest, rest at the heart's core
Till time shall cease:
Sleep that no pain shall wake;
Night that no morn shall break
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.

Christina in a painting by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Sam Leith (Telegraph) pays tribute to Christina Rossetti

Anyone who has stood with their breath misting in an icy church late on Christmas Eve and sung 'In The Bleak Midwinter' will have a piece of Christina Rossetti in their heart.

The simplicity of her words and the rhythmic artfulness of her short lines make it one of the most haunting and intimate of all Christmas poems. The entrancing repetition – "Snow had fallen, / Snow on snow / Snow on snow" – conjures snowfall not so much by description as by imitation.

She was the younger sister of the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the critic and essayist William Michael Rossetti. It's tempting to see the Rossetti clan – with their precocious childhood journals, their melodramas and morbidity - as the Italian Brontës. Christina, a pious Anglican, suffered ill health from childhood and was disappointed in love.

Her delicate and suggestive verse, with the possible exception of that one sung as a carol, suffered a long period of neglect. Its rediscovery is a cause for rejoicing. The peculiar fantasia of 'Goblin Market' is regarded by most scholars as her key work. But her short lyrics express her melancholic character with wonderful poignancy.

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.


Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

extract from "Killing the Angel in the House" (presented at a lecture to the National Society for Women's service in 1931. Posthumously published in 1942)

"When your secretary invited me to come here, she told me that your Society is concerned with the employment of women and she suggested that I might tell you something about my own professional experiences. It is true I am a woman; it is true I am employed; but what professional experiences have I had? It is difficult to say. My profession is literature; and in that profession there are fewer experiences for women than in any other, with the exception of the stage--fewer, I mean, that are peculiar to women. For the road was cut many years ago--by Fanny Burney, by Aphra Behn, by Harriet Martineau, by Jane Austen, by George Eliot--many famous women, and many more unknown and forgotten, have been before me, making the path smooth, and regulating my steps. Thus, when I came to write, there were very few material obstacles in my way. Writing was a reputable and harmless occupation. The family peace was not broken by the scratching of a pen. No demand was made upon the family purse. For ten and sixpence one can buy paper enough to write all the plays of Shakespeare--if one has a mind that way. Pianos and models, Paris, Vienna and Berlin, masters and mistresses, are not needed by a writer. The cheapness of writing paper is, of course, the reason why women have succeeded as writers before they have succeeded in the other professions.

But to tell you my story--it is a simple one. You have only got to figure to yourselves a girl in a bedroom with a pen in her hand. She had only to move that pen from left to right--from ten o'clock to one. Then it occurred to her to do what is simple and cheap enough after all--to slip a few of those pages into an envelope, fix a penny stamp in the corner, and drop the envelope into the red box at the corner. It was thus that I became a journalist; and my effort was rewarded on the first day of the following month--a very glorious day it was for me--by a letter from an editor containing a cheque for one pound ten shillings and sixpence. But to show you how little I deserve to be called a professional woman, how little I know of the struggles and difficulties of such lives, I have to admit that instead of spending that sum upon bread and butter, rent, shoes and stockings, or butcher's bills, I went out and bought a cat--a beautiful cat, a Persian cat, which very soon involved me in bitter disputes with my neighbours.

What could be easier than to write articles and to buy Persian cats with the profits? But wait a moment. Articles have to be about something. Mine, I seem to remember, was about a novel by a famous man. And while I was writing this review, I discovered that if I were going to review books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom. And the phantom was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the heroine of a famous poem, The Angel in the House. It was she who used to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews. It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her. You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her--you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it--in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all--I need not say it---she was pure. Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty--her blushes, her great grace. In those days--the last of Queen Victoria--every house had its Angel. And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered: "My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure." And she made as if to guide my pen. I now record the one act for which I take some credit to myself, though the credit rightly belongs to some excellent ancestors of mine who left me a certain sum of money--shall we say five hundred pounds a year?--so that it was not necessary for me to depend solely on charm for my living. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing. For, as I found, directly I put pen to paper, you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own, without expressing what you think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex. And all these questions, according to the Angel of the House, cannot be dealt with freely and openly by women; they must charm, they must conciliate, they must--to put it bluntly--tell lies if they are to succeed. Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. She was always creeping back when I thought I had despatched her. Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning Greek grammar; or in roaming the world in search of adventures. But it was a real experience; it was an experience that was bound to befall all women writers at that time. Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.

But to continue my story. The Angel was dead; what then remained? You may say that what remained was a simple and common object--a young woman in a bedroom with an inkpot. In other words, now that she had rid herself of falsehood, that young woman had only to be herself. Ah, but what is "herself"? I mean, what is a woman? I assure you, I do not know. I do not believe that you know. I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill. That indeed is one of the reasons why I have come here out of respect for you, who are in process of showing us by your experiments what a woman is, who are in process Of providing us, by your failures and successes, with that extremely important piece of information.

But to continue the story of my professional experiences. I made one pound ten and six by my first review; and I bought a Persian cat with the proceeds. Then I grew ambitious. A Persian cat is all very well, I said; but a Persian cat is not enough. I must have a motor car. And it was thus that I became a novelist--for it is a very strange thing that people will give you a motor car if you will tell them a story. It is a still stranger thing that there is nothing so delightful in the world as telling stories. It is far pleasanter than writing reviews of famous novels. And yet, if I am to obey your secretary and tell you my professional experiences as a novelist, I must tell you about a very strange experience that befell me as a novelist. And to understand it you must try first to imagine a novelist's state of mind. I hope I am not giving away professional secrets if I say that a novelist's chief desire is to be as unconscious as possible. He has to induce in himself a state of perpetual lethargy. He wants life to proceed with the utmost quiet and regularity. He wants to see the same faces, to read the same books, to do the same things day after day, month after month, while he is writing, so that nothing may break the illusion in which he is living--so that nothing may disturb or disquiet the mysterious nosings about, feelings round, darts, dashes and sudden discoveries of that very shy and illusive spirit, the imagination. I suspect that this state is the same both for men and women. Be that as it may, I want you to imagine me writing a novel in a state of trance. I want you to figure to yourselves a girl sitting with a pen in her hand, which for minutes, and indeed for hours, she never dips into the inkpot. The image that comes to my mind when I think of this girl is the image of a fisherman lying sunk in dreams on the verge of a deep lake with a rod held out over the water. She was letting her imagination sweep unchecked round every rock and cranny of the world that lies submerged in the depths of our unconscious being. Now came the experience, the experience that I believe to be far commoner with women writers than with men. The line raced through the girl's fingers. Her imagination had rushed away. It had sought the pools, the depths, the dark places where the largest fish slumber. And then there was a smash. There was an explosion. There was foam and confusion. The imagination had dashed itself against something hard. The girl was roused from her dream. She was indeed in a state of the most acute and difficult distress. To speak without figure she had thought of something, something about the body, about the passions which it was unfitting for her as a woman to say. Men, her reason told her, would be shocked. The consciousness of--what men will say of a woman who speaks the truth about her passions had roused her from her artist's state of unconsciousness. She could write no more. The trance was over. Her imagination could work no longer. This I believe to be a very common experience with women writers--they are impeded by the extreme conventionality of the other sex. For though men sensibly allow themselves great freedom in these respects, I doubt that they realize or can control the extreme severity with which they condemn such freedom in women."

The Mistress Bookshelf: Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

extract from "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" (1792)

"PART I. Chap. I. The Rights and Involved Duties of Mankind Considered.

IN the present state of society it appears necessary to go back to first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground. To clear my way, I must be allowed to ask some plain questions, and the answers will probably appear as unequivocal as the axioms on which reasoning is built; though, when entangled with various motives of action, they are formally contradicted, either by the words or conduct of men.
In what does man's pre-eminence over the brute creation consist? The answer is as clear as that a half is less than the whole; in Reason.
What acquirement exalts one being above another? Virtue; we spontaneously reply.
For what purpose were the passions implanted? That man by struggling with them might attain a degree of knowledge denied to the brutes; whispers Experience.
Consequently the perfection of our nature and capability of happiness, must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws which bind society: and that from the exercise of reason, knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable, if mankind be viewed collectively.
The rights and duties of man thus simplified, it seems almost impertinent to attempt to illustrate truths that appear so incontrovertible; yet such deeply rooted prejudices have clouded reason, and such spurious qualities have assumed the name of virtues, that it is necessary to pursue the course of reason as it has been perplexed and involved in error, by various adventitious circumstances, comparing the simple axiom with casual deviations.
Men, in general, seem to employ their reason to justify prejudices, which they have imbibed, they cannot trace how, rather than to root them out. The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own principles; for a kind of intellectual cowardice prevails which makes many men shrink from the task, or only do it by halves. Yet the imperfect conclusions thus drawn, are frequently very plausible, because they are built on partial experience, on just, though narrow, views.
Going back to first principles, vice skulks, with all its native deformity, from close investigation; but a set of shallow reasoners are always exclaiming that these arguments prove too much, and that a measure rotten at the core may be expedient. Thus expediency is continually contrasted with simple principles, till truth is lost in a mist of words, virtue, in forms, and knowledge rendered a sounding nothing, by the specious prejudices that assume its name.
That the society is formed in the wisest manner, whose constitution is founded on the nature of man, strikes, in the abstract, every thinking being so forcibly, that it looks like presumption to endeavour to bring forward proofs; though proof must be brought, or the strong hold of prescription will never be forced by reason; yet to urge prescription as an argument to justify the depriving men (or women) of their natural rights, is one of the absurd sophisms which daily insult common sense."


In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.