There are a couple books in my life that I find myself rereading, as the fear of the judgement of others is cast aside for the sake of incredible writing. One of these is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I have found a new contender for the bedside table. Kate Bolick’s new book, Spinster, is part biography of famous women and part investigation of self. Set against the backdrop of Bolick’s own life, Spinster looks at the lives of columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social reformer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. Each woman acts as an inspiration. Bolik herself, a former Editor for Domino magazine and writer for The Atlantic, fits beautifully along side these leaders.
Spinster will without a doubt cause debate at the dinner table. While Kate Bolick does not attack the concept of motherhood and marriage, she expresses her personal desires to avoid these matters of traditional femininity for the chance to explore herself and be truly comfortable alone. This isn’t to say Bolick avoids the company of friends and lovers; she spends a good deal of the book discussing past relationships, current friendships and a variety of gorgeous dwellings she discovered along the way. However, there will be readers who take offense to her beliefs.
The book defends women who choose to not become (or stay) wives. In one passage, Bolick discusses the frustrating fact that the term “Bachelor” started as a negative term and became neutral, while “Spinster” started as a term for a brave woman who worked instead of married, and rapidly became a derogatory term. Bolick is careful to show readers that even our lexicon favors the privacy of men, but rarely the choice of a woman to do the same. She shows that one can be truly happy, even without having a baby. Women who choose to remain unmarried are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the population, and Spinster enlightens the public that this is not something to be feared, but celebrated.
Spinster left me with a sense of kinship for Kate Bolick. Her explorations of Boyce, Brennan, Gilman, St. Vincent Millay and Wharton remind me that one can make a mark on the world, even if one opts out of motherhood and marriage.
Spinster is now available from Crown Publishing.