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Previous weeks' quotations 1999


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Feb 1999

10 Feb 1999

The long sad years of youth were worth living for the sake of middle age.

George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), 1857

17 Feb 1999

An attempt to combine 'normal' and 'abnormal' elements in one life can be as transgressive as a complete dedication to rebellion.

Pat Califia, Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism (1997)

24 Feb 1999

I have been so misused by chaste men with one wife
That I would live with satyrs all my life.
Virtue has bound me with such infamy
That I must fly where Love himself is free.

Anna Wickham (1884-1947),'Ship Near Shoals' (from The Contemplative Quarry, 1915)

Mar 1999

3 Mar 1999

...that untidiness which is dearer than any order, since it shows an infatuated interest in the universe which cannot spare one second for the mere mechanics of existence.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

10 Mar 1999

The Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy unkempt appearances and suggestive music,

Elvis Presley, 1971

cited in Peter Guralnick, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (1999)

(contributed by David Doughan)

17th March 1999

Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that [the Mole] suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said 'Bother!' and 'O blow!' and also 'Hang spring-cleaning!' and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat.

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908)

24th March 1999

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

Dorothy Parker, 'Comment', from Enough Rope (1927)

31st March 1999

Scholastic ladies, I am convinced, have a vocation which they neither can nor desire to elude.... Now, when I meet scholastic ladies I like them, respect them, yet feel as though I were skating precariously on thin ice all the time; or rather, that my brittle ice is their solid terra firma. Will they find me out, I wonder? Find out those frightful gaps in my education?
Very rarely do I meet one scholastic lady alone; usually two or three in a group of friendship. They wear friendship like a warm durable cloak that does not fray or need patching. They do not insult one another; they tell gay teasing stories to show up each others' good and generous qualities, and while they are doing so, the subject of their story always tries to stop them.

G. B. [Gladys Bertha] Stern, Monogram (1936)

Apr 1999

7th April 1999

'Dominant' forms of masculinity were constituted out of a set of 'negative' varieties that appeared in everyday discourse and practice... it was easier for society to note the bad examples rather than the exemplars of the manly ideal. The legal, medical, and psychological experts, in describing 'deviant' males were defining in negative terms 'normal' men, though at times these experts could be detected projecting onto the 'other' their own repressed desires.

Angus McLaren, The Trials of Masculinity: Policing sexual boundaries, 1870-1930 (1997)

14th April 1999

A political system which denies women alike equality of opportunity and adequate special protection; an economic system which is iniquity and waste incarnate; and sexual institutions founded on the needs and preferences of a primitive type of man alone, and now in their debacle, creditable and satisfactory to neither sex - these can have no moral claim on women's bodies as instruments of propagation.

Stella Browne, 'Women and birth control' (1917)

21st April 1999

When a famous and idealised older woman failed to live up to the needs of a younger protegée it is de rigueur nowadays for the latter to rage in print at the cruelty of her faithless idol.

Terry Castle, review of Rosemary Mahoney, A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman, London Review of Books, 15 April 1999

28th April 1999

To 'leave the inner realm and move outside to the great scenes, outdoors, on the streets, abroad,' this kind of freedom leads women into mirrorless space, not to experiences of self-discovery, scarcely to places of memory. For in this freedom - of thought, of movement, of impulse - we do not find ourselves.
This is exactly the adventure that still excites and inspires: not to want to keep meeting yourself; to find out what it's like to walk around and think like a stranger, to be a stranger in knowledge; not to seek out those regions that fix us in repetition. To become knowledgeable in a world which intended to exclude women from knowledge.

Christina Thürmer-Rohr, Vagabonding: Feminist Thinking Cut Loose (1987/1991)

May 1999

5th May 1999

She had found peace of mind and perennial interest in the hearty denunciation of those who did not agree with her.

Cicely Hamilton, William - An Englishman (1919)

recently republished by Persephone Books

12th May 1999

She took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtains of ivy and pushed back the door which opened slowly--slowly.
Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.
She was standing inside the secret garden.
It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place anyone could imagine.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (1910)

19th May 1999

There was one indeed who seemed to me to hold up hope for woman-hood. A fairly intimate knowledge of theatrical history enabled me to calculate that she must be forty-five: yet her hair rose from her smooth brow in the strong waves that show vitality, the line of her chin and jaw delicate and uncoarsened by age, her body was straight as a pine tree, and she moved proudly. Maturity had merely ripened her: it should. The tired drudges who are grey-haired and bent-backed at forty-five have been mutilated by society. The woman was the pattern of what nature meant a middle-aged woman to be.

Rebecca West, 'Much Worse than Gaby Deslys: A Plea for Decency', The Clarion, 28 Nov 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca (1982)

26th May 1999

One of the things that makes fundamentalism popular is its digestibility. Fundamentalism offers us reductionist theories about how the world works, what went wrong, and how to fix it,

Pat Califia, Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism (1997)

June 1999

2nd June 1999

The first male cell, and the first male organism, was an initial failure on the part of the maternal organism to reproduce its like, and was due to a chemical deficiency in the metabolism or physique of the mother,

Frances Swiney, Woman and natural law (1912)

(contributed by David Doughan)

9th June 1999

Even for those who have leisure to spend on love-making, the opportunities for peaceful, romantic dalliance are less to-day in a city with its tubes and cinema shows than in woods and gardens where the pulling of rosemary or lavender may be the sweet excuse for the slow and profound mutual rousing of passion.

Marie Stopes, Married Love: A new solution to sexual difficulties (1918)

16th June 1999

1. That the primary aim and object of Bed is that a good time should be had by all.
2. That (other things being equal) it is the business of the Male to make it so.
3. That he knows his business.

The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers volume three: 1944-1950: A noble daring (Barbara Reynolds, editor)

23rd June 1999

Marriage is the result of the longing for the deep, deep peace of the double bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue.

Mrs Patrick (Stella) Campbell (1865-1940)

30th June 1999

What's that for, eh? Oh tell me, Ma
If you don't tell me, I'll ask Pa
But Ma said 'Oh it's nothing, shut your row'
Well, I've asked Johnny Jones, see! So, I know now.

'What's That For, Eh?', composed by George le Brunn and W. T. Lytton, 1895, sung by Marie Lloyd (1870-1922)

July 1999

7th July 1999

A wanton woman who could knowingly lead a man toward bed might just as easily... turn him away from it; and perhaps a whole dictionary of non-love should be written, about how to prepare this and that food most likely to stem desire.

M. F. K. Fisher, 'W is for Wanton', An Alphabet for Gourmets (1954)

14th July 1999

In the span of one lifetime the luxuries of the rich become the necessities of the poor. Consider, for instance, white bread, bananas, and bathrooms.

Olga Hartley and Mrs CF Leyel,Lucullus: The Food of the Future (1926)

21st July 1999

In actuality, each month the ovum undertakes an extraordinary expedition from the ovary through the Fallopian tubes to the uterus, an unseen equivalent of going down the Mississippi on a raft or over Niagara Falls in a barrel.... One might say that the activity of ova involves a daring and independence absent, in fact, from the activity of spermatozoa, which move in jostling masses, swarming out on signal like a crowd of commuters from the 5:15.

Mary Ellman, Thinking About Women (1968)

[28th July 1999 no quotation]

August 1999

4th August 1999

Friendship... needs a lot of care and protection. It needs at times to be fought for, to survive. Strong as it may be, it can wither and die with neglect, overnight.
Friendships are not always enjoyable, but certainly they are not to be used and they are not a means to an end.... They happen, and they are to be savored for as long as they last. But keeping them alive and healthy, while a lot of deliberate work, is not a mechanical job. (1977)

MFK Fisher: A Life in Letters, Correspondence 1929-1991

11th August 1999

Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking women only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.

Valerie Solanas, The SCUM Manifesto (1967)

18th August 1999

May I say this? I know it is a dreadful confession, but I have never met the normal woman. I have seen a lot about her in print, and heard a lot about her on platforms and even in conferences, but I have never met her. Women are different from one another in so many ways.

F. W. Stella Browne, verbal evidence to the Birkett Committee (Interdepartmental Committee on Abortion), 1937

25th August 1999

'Not that I 'old with wot she told you, mind you. It ain't right'
'Aye,' agreed her daughter, heavily, ' 'tes wickedness. 'Tes flyin' in the face of Nature.'
'That's right.'
A pause, during which Mrs Beetle stood with her broom suspended, looking firmly at the oil stove. Then she added:
'All the same, it might be worth tryin'.

Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm (1932)

September 1999

1st September 1999

Somewhere, there is a story which will suit you, enable you to grow, and it is not necessarily the story of your own personal ancestors, your own personal culture. It may be half a globe away from them, or fourteen hundred years, and you may have to seek long through space/time before you find it. But you will know it when you have found it because it will let you see at last that there is no qualitative difference between thought and matter, and that the creative imagination is more healing than any medicine. Don't settle for someone else's story. Find yours. Create a truth which is your truth. And remember that while the facts remain the same, the truth is always changing.

Elizabeth Arthur, Antarctic Navigation (1994)

8th September 1999

If you're someone mainly eager to please others, you don't think much about your own pleasure; taking pleasure is not a survival skill, while giving it most certainly is.

Edmund White, The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988)

15th September 1999

Standing with their backs to the hall fire, were Aunt Sadie, Aunt Emily, and a small, fair, and apparently young man. My immediate impression was that he did not seem at all like a husband. He looked kind and gentle.

Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love (1945)

22nd September 1999

A marvellous idea flashed into my mind - one of those ideas to be cherished, polished, perfected until it can become a reality. I decided to run away from home. Not yet - I knew a twelve-year-old would hardly have a chance to survive for long without being discovered and returned to the family - but one day, when I had worked out a thoroughly satisfactory plan, and had saved enough money to support myself for a while. I wrote immediately to Drummond's Bank; in a couple of days I had their answer:
"Dear Madam, - We respectfully beg leave to acknowledge receipt of ten shillings as initial deposit in your Running Away Account. Passbook Number ------ enclosed. We remain, dear Madam, your obedient servants...." .

Jessica Mitford, Hons and Rebels (1960)

29th September 1999

Husbands are valued in an inverse relation to sexuality: 'he's very good, he doesn't bother me much', 'he's not lustful', 'he wouldn't trouble you at all, 'he's pretty good that way'.

Eliot Slater and Moya Woodside, Patterns of Marriage: A Study of Marriage Relationships in the Urban Working Classes (1951)

October 1999

Sex is the great leveler, taste the great divider. I have premonitions of the beginning of the end when a man who seems charming or at least remotely possible starts talking about movies. When he says 'I saw a great picture a couple of years ago - I wonder what you thought of it?' I start looking for the nearest exit.

Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

13th October 1999

Persons of Aunt Ada's temperament were not fond of a tidy life. Storms were what they liked; plenty of rows, and doors being slammed, and jaws sticking out, and faces white with fury, and faces brooding in corners, faces making unnecessary fuss at breakfast, and plenty of opportunities for gorgeous emotional wallowings, and partings for ever, and misunderstandings, and interferings, and spyings, and, above all, managing and intriguing. Oh, they did enjoy themselves!

Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm (1932)

20th October 1999

So, wait a while, show you, chile, just how to treat a no-good man
Make him stay at home, wash and iron,
tell all the neighbors he done lost his mind
You see a man you really like
Let him bite that monkey, brother, in his back
When his cruel heart turn, his love breaks down
hold him where you got him make him stay in town,
I ain't good lookin', I'm built for speed
I've got ev'rything a pigmeat needs
'cause I'm a safety woman, lookin' for a safety man.

Bessie Smith (1894-1937), Safety Mamma

Harry's Blues Lyrics OnLine: Bessie Smith Lyrics

27th October 1999

There are more women whom men find attractive than men whom women find attractive.

Rebecca West, 1900 (1982)

November 1999

3rd November 1999

It is alleged by a lawyer I know, that a handful of most respectable ladies had been filling in their calling-up papers with 'prostitute' as their profession, for thus they were not eligible. It would be a little difficult, however, to conduct a seemly scientific investigation as to the truth of this.

GB Stern, Trumpet Voluntary (1944)

10th November 1999

Go from me, summer friends, and tarry not:
I am no summer friend, but wintry cold,
A silly sheep benighted from the fold,
A sluggard with a thorn-choked garden plot.
Take counsel, sever from my lot your lot,
Dwell in your pleasant places, hoard your gold;
Lest you with me should shiver on the wold,
Athirst and hungering on a barren spot
For I have hedged me with a thorny hedge,
I live alone, I look to die alone:
Yet sometimes when a wind sighs through the sedge,
Ghosts of my buried years and friends come back,
My heart goes sighing after swallows flown
On sometime summer's unreturning track.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), From Sunset to Star rise

[There were no quotations for 17th and 24th Nov 1999]

December 1999

1st December 1999

Wives whose attitude was expressed in the phrase familiar to early birth-control clinic workers: 'He's a good husband, he only troubles me once a week'

Mary Stocks, Still More Commonplace (1973)

8th December 1999

He plainly wanted to be near me, to talk with me, to bamboozle me intellectually. This was no novelty to me; around universities there is always some 'female-molesting' or 'harassment' or whatever the fashionable word may be, but there is a great deal more of intellectual mauling and pawing by people who don't even known that what they are doing is sexy.

Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels (1982)

15th December 1999

Mrs Hoadley would have been content to live in a suburb of some great city with a culture based upon the teapot rather than upon the fermented grape. Everything in the suburb would have been pretty, sensible, pleasant and orderly and run on electricity, and all the men would years ago have shot themselves or run away to sea.

Stella Gibbons, The Matchmaker (1949)

22nd December 1999

It was unfortunate that the grief of the virtuous over vice should have been so terribly like the choking, lacerating sobs of a child who hasn't been asked to a party, who has been left outside... outside forever.

War Nurse: The True Story of a Woman who Lived, Loved and Suffered on the Western Front (1930) (ghostwritten by Rebecca West)

29th December 1999

There are so many ways to be gay that the idea of a singular source seems absurd. Most people's sexual and emotional lives can be broken down into a complex combination of biology, coincidence, and opportunity, with a little personality (a combination of all the above) thrown in for good measure. So, why this public mania to find an explanation for homosexuality?

Sarah Schulman, Stage Struck: Theater, AIDS and the Marketing of Gay America (1998)


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History of Sexuality Women's History Stella Browne Archival matters Books
Interwar Progressives Science Fiction and Fantasy Random Links of Interest
Victoriana Quirky Stuff