Merry Wanderer of the Night + weekend

Love Letters of Great Women

I have never read Love Letters of Great Men, but when I saw Love Letters of Great Women in the store I really could not pass it up. It was on the table for Valentine's Day. It had a pretty cover. Quite a bit of white space when I was looking for a quick read. And a quick look at the back flap assured me that I would find at least a few good letters in this collection. But what I found wasn't quite what I was expecting. In fact, I think it was better.

I was looking for a gushy romantic collection of letters from women to their loved ones, but many of the letters in this book are business like. The women in this collection might be in love, but they are also serious, assertive women with thought provoking ideas. Ursula Doyle's introductions to each woman left me asking thousands of questions and wondering why I had never heard of some of these women before. When I read her introduction to the book I wondered if I was going to enjoy it, mostly because of this:

For the Great Men of history, the matter of who they loved and who they might marry was but on aspect of their lives; their Greatness rested on their achievements in other spheres: scientific discovery, exploration, conquest, political triumph, artistic endeavour. These avenues were not open to most women until shockingly recently, and it is a sad fact that the Greatness of many of the women in this collection rests either on who they married or to whom they gave birth... (2)

But after considering, I realized that this is mostly true. It's a great introduction as well, because Doyle spends the majority of her introductions talking about what these women did outside of their marriages. She does allow their accomplishments to come out, and the romance takes a backseat. So is this the ideal read for Valentine's Day, or a romantic weekend? Probably not. But it is an ideal read for anyone interested in women's history and relationships. Doyle is honest too, which makes the book that much better. I particularly enjoyed her honesty about Emily Dickinson's relationship with Susan Gilbert. No need to skirt around the corners people. Emily loved Susan.

Other women I particularly enjoyed in this book were Lady Mary Pierrepont, Abigail Smith Adams, Manon Jeanne Philipon, Marie-Josphe-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, Maria Branwell Bronte, Claire Clairmont, Queen Victoria, and Katherine Mansfield.

This collection earned an A.

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Love Letters of Great Women + weekend