‘Women Who Write Are Dangerous’

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books

‘Women Who Write Are Dangerous’By Stefan Bollmann, color &?B&W illus., Abbeville Press, hardcover, 168 pgs, 2018, $22.95



On the heels of his best-selling 2016 “Women Who Read Are Dangerous,” Bollmann profiles 47 women who challenged societal norms and answered the ever-popular question, “Why would anyone want to write a book when she can have a baby?”

He gives portraits rather than straightforward biographies, organizing them under themes such as “The Ancestors of Women Who Write” and “Eccentric Orbits,” with each section preceded by a solid introductory discussion. He presents the famous together with less-well-known voices that have continued to grow long after they were silenced. He examines different types of courage found in those who braved the male-dominated literary profession, and in others such as Sophie Scholl who produced leaflets opposing the Nazis, who caught and executed her in 1943.

Subjects range from Hildegard of Bingen to Mary Wollstonecraft to Dorothy Parker to Toni Morrison and of course, Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Isabel Allende and Amy Tan.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) remarkably won the support of Pope Eugenius III who recognized prophetic gifts in her. Wollstonecraft authored the groundbreaking “Vindication of the Rights of Women” in 1792, then gave birth to the future Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, creator of “Frankenstein.”

Bollmann sees Parker as “a modern, more malicious form of that female wit and shrewdness that were so characteristic of Jane Austen and her heroines.”

Morrison became the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

We learn that when Sidonie Gabrielle Colette finished her first novel, her husband published it under his own name. It succeeded wildly and while he basked in celebrity, he kept his wife locked in a study to write more. Six years later, she left him.

Beatrix Potter’s parents did not send her to school nor allow her to have playmates; from Potter we have the beloved children’s classic “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” At the other end of the spectrum, Agatha Christie’s widowed mother encouraged her while still in her teens. Christie went on to shatter sales records as the most widely read woman writer in the world.

Francine Prose asserts in the foreword that the ability to “invent a higher truth worth telling has, after all, everything to do with talent and intelligence, spirit and soul, and nothing to do with” gender. Bollmann expertly underscores the message.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held throughout the year on the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church.

Story First Published: 2018-11-16