To close out National Women’s History Month we bring you a look at women’s history in their own words with a round-up of books featuring women’s letter writing. (For more titles in Women’s Studies.)
Margaretta Jolly’s excellent study of how women’s letter writing shaped the feminist movement of the 1970s and 80s, In Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary Feminism, brings us the first cultural study of these letters, charting the evolution of feminist political consciousness from the height of the women’s movement to today’s e-mail networks. Jolly uncovers the passionate, contradictory emotions of both politics and letter writing and sets out the theory behind them as a fragile yet persistent ideal of care ethics, women’s love, and epistolary art.
Moving to the twentieth century, the famous poet Amy Clampitt came to poetry late in life, leaving a rich trail of letters to document her growth as a writer and later as a renowned poet. Willard Spiegelman has collected her letters together in Love, Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt. This extraordinary collection of letters sheds light on one of the most important postwar American poets and on a creative woman’s life from the 1950s onward. Ben Downing in the The Wall Street Journal said, “This book is a welcome reminder of the unique intimacy afforded by reading another person’s letters.” And Isabel Nathaniel in the Dallas Morning News remarked “Here is what e-mail has no patience for: grace, wit, wonder, embellishment, asides, details and real vocabulary.”
Lastly, The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft. The celebrated writer of Frankenstein was an ardent feminist writer in her day, well known for her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In this collection edited by Janet Todd, we see Wollstonecraft’s growth as a writer as she fleshes out the ideas for her essays and her fictional works in her copious correspondence throughout her life.
So, go put pen to paper, maybe someone someday will collect your letters together for an anthology. You never know…..