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Women's Autobiography

The following discussion(s) of women's autobiographies took place on WMST-L
in October, 1997 (part 1), Winter 2000 (part2), October 2000 (part 3), and
August/Sept. 2001 (part 4). The file Growing Up Female in Fiction and Film
may also be of interest. For additional WMST-L files available on the Web,
see the WMST-L File Collection.

Date:  Wed, 15 Oct 1997 18:38:35 -0500
From:  "Amy L. Wink" <awink  @  SFASU.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Hello everyone,
I will be teaching a course in the Spring semester entitled Women's
Voices/ Women's Lives: American Women's Autobiography and Life-Writing. In
addition to the texts we will read in class, I will ask students to
examine a text on their own. I am currently trying to compile a list for
the students to choose from. I would like this list to have the additional
purpose of showing students how many women have written an autobiography/
life narrative, and broadening their definition  of "autobiography."  I
welcome suggestions from the list, and will submit the bibliography
when it's done. I would be particularly interested in non-tradition
autobiographies, such as diaries, letters, oral narratives,
printed collections of self-portaits, etc.
Dr. Amy L. Wink
Department of English and Philosophy
Stephen F. Austin State University
P.O. Box 13007, SFA Station
Nacogdoches, Tx 75962-3007
(409) 468-2007
awink  @  sfasu.edu
A Letter always feels to me like immortality because it is the mind alone
without corporeal friend. Indebted in our talk to attitude and accent,
there seems a spectral power in thought that walks alone."
            Emily Dickinson
              _Selected Letters_ (#330, p. 196)
Date:     Wed, 15 Oct 1997 18:53:33 -0600
From:     Benay Blend <BLEND  @  ALPHA.NSULA.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Amy, I've just proposed to teach "Studies in Autobiography" next spring
myself, so will be interested in what others contribute. My course will
not focus on women, but I will probably use the Norton collection Women's
Lives that I am using right now in Women's History. Other suggestions
would be Bell-Scott, editor, Life Notes, and Madison, Ed., The Woman
That I am, which has a section of personal narratives.
Benay Blend
blend  @  alpha.nsula.edu
Date:     Wed, 15 Oct 1997 19:15:33 -0500
From:     Miriam Harris <mharris  @  UTDALLAS.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

I will come back and mention several more but right now I want to
recommend several little known works by Claire Myers Owens (1896-1983).
Students will prob. have to order from interlibrary loan but these are
accounts of Owens' spiritual awakening, subsequent journey to
enlightenment and eventual embrace of Zen. Very unusual stories and form
-- worth analyzing.  Not much exists on Owens -- I just finished a
biography I want to get published.
You asked for unusal and these are:
(all by Claire Myers Owens)
Awakening to the Good: Psychological or Religious. Boston:Christopher
House 1958
Discovery of the Self. Boston: Christopher House 1963
Zen and the Lady. NY: Baraka 1979
If anyone chooses to work on her, have them contact me and I'll give them
specific info.
Sounds like a great class.
Miriam K. Harris, Ph.D.
mharris  @  utdallas.edu
972/866-6711 ph.
214/630-1169 fx.
Date:     Wed, 15 Oct 1997 17:46:30 -0700
From:     Joan Starker <jstarker  @  TELEPORT.COM>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Some thoughts:
Autobiographies by Margaret Mead (Blackberry Winter)
Life Notes ( edited by Bell-Scott) - which has already been mentioned
Nancy Mair's "Plaintext: Essays - I read this years ago.  I think she
has MS.
I also came across another possibility ( which I haven't read) but looks
good: Writing Women's Lives: An Anthology of Autobiographical Narratives
by 20th Century American Women Writers
some related books:
Carolyn Heilbrun's Writing a Woman's Life
Also Judith Barrington, Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art
Joan Starker, Ph.D.
Lewis and Clark College
jstarker  @  teleport.com
Date:     Wed, 15 Oct 1997 18:41:47 -0700
From:     Joan Starker <jstarker  @  TELEPORT.COM>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Another thought -
With the Power of Each breath - a Disabled Women's Anthology by Susan E.
Browne, Debra Connors, and Nanci Stern
Joan Starker, Ph.D.
Lewis and Clark College
jstarker  @  teleport.com
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 07:11:43 -0500
From:     Miriam Harris <mharris  @  UTDALLAS.EDU>
Subject:  women's autobiographies

Three other favorites that offer stimulating themes:
Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments (mother/daughter)
Alice Koller, An Unknown Woman
    "         Stations of Solitude
Someone mentioned Nancy Mairs -- all of herbooks are autobiog. and all
deal with her progressive MS.
Miriam K. Harris, Ph.D.
mharris  @  utdallas.edu
972/866-6711 ph.
214/630-1169 fx.
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 09:41:43 -0400
From:     Jaime Grant <jgrant  @  TUI.EDU>
Subject:  women's autobiographies

I don't know if this would work with your course, but I'd think about
pairing Dorothy Allison's _Bastard Out of Carolina_ with her
autobiographical text _One or Two Things I Know For Sure_.  In the latter,
she sifts through the truths of her life and how they feed the story in
_Bastard_.  Wonderful stuff.  It's hard to say which of her 'voices' --
fictional or her non-fictional -- are more powerful or more 'true.'
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 13:16:31 +0000
From:     Mary Trigg <Trapp  @  WORLDNET.ATT.NET>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Although these are not nontraditional autobiographies, the following are
women's autobiographies I have read and used in teaching:
Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House
Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Mary Catherine Bateson, With A Daughter's Eye
Mary Brave Bird, Ohitika Woman and Lakota Woman
Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
Jill Ker Conway, The Road From Coorain
                 True North
Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road
Doris Lessing, Under My Skin
Audre Lorde, Zami (this is nontraditional)
Emma Mashinini, Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life
Jill Nelson, Volunteer Slavery
Gayle Pemberton, The Hottest Water in Chicago
Ida B. Wells, Crusade For Justice
Jean Fagan Yellin, ed., Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Harriet Jacobs)
Doris Grumbach, Extra Innings: A Memoir
Annie Dillard, An American Childhood
Madeleine L'Engle's three part autobiography
Patricia Preciado Martin, Songs My Mother Sang to Me (nontraditional)
James McBride, The Color of Water (Although written by a man, it's about his
mother, and is a wonderful book)
I hope these are helpful!
Mary Trigg
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 09:39:09 -0500
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

I'd highly recommend any of Miles Franklin's books (My Brilliant Career and My
Career goes bung come to mind).  The depict the problems of a young woman
choosing not to follow traditional paths in early 20th c Australia and are
based on her own experience.  She has also written one based on her experience
working as a journalist in the United States (I can't think of the title
off-hand) that may be more accessible to an American audience.
Gillian Rodger
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 08:58:02 -0500
From:     "Deborah Moreland moreland.utdallas.edu." <moreland  @  UTDALLAS.EDU
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Frida Kahlo's paintings tell her life story over and over again:  more
accurately, they represent her life in a variety of ways, creating many
different contradictory identities.  *The World of Frida Kahlo* contains a
so-so biography of her; more interesting is the collection of her work in
it.  I would recommend it highly as a non-traditional autobiography.
More traditional, but very interesting is Maxine Kingston's *The Woman
Warrior,* and Samuel Delany's The Motion of Life in Water.  The latter is
concern a gay writer/artist coming of age in Greenwich Village in the 50s.
Lorde's Zami and Woolf's various memoirs (esp. Sketch of the Past) are
excellent.  A small piece, really an essay, is F. Scott Fitzgerald's The
Crack Up, included in his collection of essays called, I think, The Jazz
Age.  And Zelda Fitzgerald wrote Save Me the Waltz, her life story in
fictional form, while hospitalized for mental illness in the early 30s.
Hope  these might help.
Deborah Moreland
University of Texas at Dallas
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 09:05:14 -0500
From:     "Deborah Moreland moreland.utdallas.edu." <moreland  @  UTDALLAS.EDU
Subject:  women's autobiographies

I will second Allison's work, and add to these recommendations a
collection of essays *Skin:  Talking about Sex, Clas, and Literature*
Deborah Moreland
University of Texas at Dallas
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 07:40:06 -0700
From:     Joan Starker <jstarker  @  TELEPORT.COM>
Subject:  women's autobiographies

Someone mentioned The Color of Water - it's a wonderful, beautifully
written book - written by a man - but with sections written by his
mother - I'm using it this term as a text in my class.
Joan Starker, Ph.D.
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 12:19:04 -0400
From:     Barbara Taylor <bt24761  @  UAFSYSB.UARK.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Born in the Delta by Margaret Jones Bolsterli is an interesting one by a
woman who, in her scholarly role, has also edited women's diaries (e.g.,
Vinegar Pie and Chicken Bread.)

Barbara G. Taylor    bt24761  @  uafsysb.uark.edu
Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources
University of Arkansas, 222 Administration Building
Fayetteville, AR  72701
(501) 575-2158  (501) 575-6971 FAX
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 09:17:04 -0400
From:     liora moriel <lioram  @  WAM.UMD.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

How about the moves made by Getrude Stein (Autobiography of Alice B.
Toklas) and Jamaica Kinkaid (Autobiography of my Mother)?
And BTW, who did Emily Dickinson write that letter-on-letters to?
Liora Moriel
Comparative Literature Program
University of Maryland
2107 Susquehanna Hall
College Park, MD 20742-8825
lioram  @  wam.umd.edu
"We have cooperated for a very long time in the maintenance of our own
invisibility.  And now the party is over."                - Vito Russo
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 13:08:59 -0400
From:     Sidonie Smith <sidsmith  @  UMICH.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

For those of you teaching courses on women's autobiography/life writing
I'd like to let you know about a book Julia Watson and I have edited
that is coming out from the University of Wisconsin Press in the spring.
have put together a reader entitled Women, Autobiography, Theory: A
Reader.  It is a collection of some 40 essays (some excerpted) on
women's autobiographical writing published
over the last ten years.  We have
written a long introduction tracing the history of work on women's
autobiography and outlining various theoretical approaches to women's
texts.  We include an extensive bibliography of work on women's
autobiography and alist of over 250 primary texts.  It is reader book
for classroom use.
If you would like more information please feel free to contact me
Sidonie Smith
Director of Women's Studies and Professor of English
234 West Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1092
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 14:06:28 +0100
From:     McPherson S <smcph  @  ESSEX.AC.UK>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

I have made up and submitted to my dept. a course outline on Researching
Women's Lives: Narratives and Autobiographies, because I felt that there
was a need for it.  It comprises an integration of qualitative
sociological research methods and feminist approaches to life stories,
which I believed would be appropriate to sociology.  I received no feedback
on my proposal, only the scantiest acknowledgement that it had been
received.  Nevertheless, I have the outline and a book list (30
books).  If anyone would like to see/use it or has any suggestions on
how to get these idea across to others, I would appreciate it if you would
contact me privately.
I have put a lot of work into this and have received no recognition.  I
may *only* be a PhD student, but I have had a lifetime of experience
which informs my feminist/sociogical approach.  I feel strongly about
this because women's voices have been silenced, but even in creating a
practical mechanism to rectify this problem, I have been ignored.
Sue McPherson
PhD student
Department of Sociology
University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, UK
email: smcph  @  essex.ac.uk
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 11:04:50 -0400
From:     Glynis Carr <gcarr  @  BUCKNELL.EDU>
Subject:  women's autobiography

I'd like to second the suggestion of Audre Lorde's *Zami* and recommend
two others that would go nicely with it:  Diane DiPrima's *Memoir of a
Beatnik* and
Hettie Jones' *How I Became Hettie Jones.*  All three tell life-stories
of rebellious women of the beat era, all exploring what it means to live
an artist's life.  DiPrima might be controversial (some read her book as
pornography).  Additionally,  Jones provides fascinating insights from a
Jewish woman's perspective on the social construction of race. Along
these same lines, Joan Nestle has some great autobiographical essays in
her collection of late 1980s (title escapes me--sorry) about sexuality,
feminism, politics, etc.
Best wishes on your interesting course.
P.S.  If many people are responding privately, I hope you can find time
to compile suggestions and post to the list.
Glynis Carr
Associate Professor of English
Bucknell University
Lewisburg, PA  17837
gcarr  @  bucknell.edu
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 16:06:49 -0400
From:     Sally Harrison-Pepper <Sallynla  @  AOL.COM>
Subject:  Life Writing: a new novel to recommend

Re: Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing, I just finished reading the debut
novel of Diana Wagman, SKIN DEEP, that offers some fascinating reflections on
beauty.  The novel is layered with differing levels of meaning and
significance, and was also informed by the author's life -- so it's
indirectly autobiographical, I'd say.  It departs from a plot-driven story to
become a weird, mysterious, even scary interior journey of the central
character, who reflects upon and talks about beauty, but who interestingly is
never described or "seen" in the book.  There is a "mystery story" quality to
the book at times, and also an intentionally scary plot device that is also
quite mysterious and thought-provoking.
There are some reviews of it posted at www.amazon.com (where I ordered the
book for 30% off and got it in just a couple days).  (I think the Kirkus
review misses the mark completely, however, by focusing on the fact that
Wagman is also a screenwriter.  This book bears NO resemblance to a
I've also learned that Wagman will be giving a reading of her novel at
Llammas Women's Bookstore in Washington, D.C. on October 26th.
I plan to adopt this book for a course I'm teaching in the fall.  I think
it's written in a style that will appeal to today's students, and provides
lots of points of discussion and thought-puzzles to ponder.  I recommend it!
Sally Harrison-Pepper
Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
Affiliate Professor of Women's Studies
Miami University, Oxford OH
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 14:59:21 -0500
From:     Julie K Daniels <Julie.K.Daniels-2  @  TC.UMN.EDU>
Subject:  women's autobiography

> Joan Nestle has some great autobiographical essays in
> her collection of late 1980s (title escapes me--sorry) about sexuality,
> feminism, politics, etc.
I believe the title is _In a Restricted Country_, and I recommend the book
as well.
Julie K. Daniels
Department of Rhetoric
64 Classroom Office Building
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN  55108
email:  Julie.K.Daniels-2  @  tc.umn.edu
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 17:05:31 -0400
From:     Stacey Meadow <sm445  @  COLUMBIA.EDU>
Subject:  Womens' Autobiography

These are all great suggestions.  Some others you might want to
consider are "Bone Black: Memoirs of Girlhood"  (bell hooks), "Coming of
Age in Mississippi: An Autobiography"  (Anne Moody), "Angela Davis: An
Autobiography," and though I have not read it, the new Anita Hill book
"Speaking Truth to Power" has gotten some good reviews.  Also, if you
wanted to adress the issue of personal disclosure in feminist scholarship,
Patricia J. Williams' "The Alchemy of Race and Rights" is very
autobiographical, not to mention cantaining good theory.
Please do post your bibliography to the list.
Stacey Meadow
Barnard College - Columbia University
Women's Studies / Psychology
sm445  @  columbia.edu
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 18:15:26 -0400
From:     "Allison B. Kimmich" <akimmic  @  EMORY.EDU>
Subject:  Women and Autobiography Resources

Martine Brownley and I have edited a collection of critical essays and
autobiography excerpts on women's lifewriting that will be published in
the fall of 1998 as part of Scholary Resources "Worlds of Women" series
(the collection is not yet titled).
The text is intended for undergraduate classroom use, and includes an
introduction which defines issues that are central to the study of women
and autobiography, explanatory headnotes for each selection, and an
annotated bibliography of critical sources.
Allison Kimmich
akimmic  @  emory.edu
Allison Kimmich
Visiting Assistant Professor
Institute for Women's Studies
Emory University
Atlanta, GA  30322
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 19:08:27 -0700
From:     "Sonja V. Batten" <svbatten  @  SCS.UNR.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

You might also try "Composing a Life" by Mary Catherine Bateson, which is
a combination autobiography and biography of four other extraordinary
Sonja V. Batten
University of Nevada Reno
svbatten  @  scs.unr.edu
Date:     Thu, 16 Oct 1997 22:43:18 -0500
From:     Jacqueline Haessly <jacpeace  @  ACS.STRITCH.EDU>
Subject:  women's autobiographies

I'd add the works of Sylvia Ashton Warner, both her autobiograpy and her
novels, which are really autobiographical in nature.  Also, __Teacher__,
which describes her work in New Zealand.
peace,  Jacqueline Haessly   jacpeace  @  acs.stritch.edu  Image Peace!
Date:     Fri, 17 Oct 1997 13:44:59 -0500
From:     "Women's Presses Library Project, Mev Miller" <wplp  @  WINTERNET.CO
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Amy, this may be more than what you need. Please let me know if you need
more detailed information.
Among the White Moon Faces: An Asian-American Memoir of Homelands
Shirley Geok-lin Lim
The Feminist Press at CUNY
1996   1-55861-144-4   C   $22.95   248pp.
Black and White Sat Down Together: The Reminiscences of an NAACP Founder
Mary White Ovington
The Feminist Press at CUNY
1995    1-55861-099-5   C       $19.95  184pp.
1996    1-55861-156-8   P       $10.95  184pp.
Forty-Three Septembers: Essays
Jewelle Gomez
Firebrand Books
Essays that weave together the varied strands of experience contributing to
a writing life.
1993    1-56341-038-9   C       $22.95  200pp.
1993    1-56341-037-0   P       $10.95  200pp.
Making Peace With My Mother
Sylvia  Grossman
Knowledge, Ideas & Trends, Inc.
1992    1-879198-07-X   P       $14.95  210pp.
Memories: My Life as an International Leader in Health, Suffrage and Peace
Aletta H. Jacobs
The Feminist Press at CUNY
1996   1-55861-137-1   C   $45.00   272pp.
1996   1-55861-138-X   P   $18.95   272pp.
Orlando's Sleep: An Autobiography of Gender
Jennifer Spry
New Victoria Publishers
A personal yet political discussion of courage, gender, sexuality, and
1997   0-934678-80-4   P   $12.95   200pp.
Sandy Dennis: A Personal Memoir
Louise Ladd and Doug Taylor
Papier-Mache Press
Memoir of Sandy Dennis, actress and writer.
1997   1-57601-001-5   C   $14.95   112pp.
Sisters of the Wind: Voices of Early Women Aviators
Elizabeth S. Bell
Trilogy Books
1994    0-9623879-4-0   P       $14.95  206pp.
Skin: Talking About Sex, Class & Literature
Dorothy Allison
Firebrand Books
1994    1-56341-045-1   C       $26.95  264pp.
1994    1-56341-044-3   P       $13.95  264pp.
Streets: A Memoir of the Lower East Side
Bella Spiwack
The Feminist Press at CUNY
Memoir of Bella Spewack, Jewish immigrant and author of serveral films and
plays, including Kiss Me, Kate.
1995   1-55861-115-0   C   $19.95   180pp.
1995   1-55861-153-3   P   $10.95   180pp.
There Were Times I Thought I Was Crazy: A Black Woman's Story of Incest
Vanessa Alleyne
Sister Vision Press
1997   1-896705-08-1   P   $13.95   176pp.
Women Who Touched My Life: A Memoir
Ruth Harriet Jacobs, Ph.D.      Knowledge, Ideas & Trends, Inc.
1996    1-879198-22-3   P       $14.95  150pp.
"...keeping women's words in circulation"
Mev Miller
Project Coodinator
1483 Laurel Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104-6737
612-646-1153 (fax)
wplp  @  winternet.com
Date:     Sat, 18 Oct 1997 07:41:05 -0800
From:     NFAM <fabma  @  PC.JARING.MY>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies

Asian-American writer Hilary Tham's Lane With No Name (Lynne Rienner =
Publishers, Boulder, 1997) makes an illuminating reading as well.Tham is =
also a poet and hence, has included several poems in her memoirs as =
fabma  @  pc.jaring.my
Date:     Fri, 17 Oct 1997 16:04:45 -0400
From:     Susan Koppelman <Huddis  @  AOL.COM>
Subject:  Women and Autobiography Resources

Here are some of my favorite suggestions:
I'd start with Linda Wagner-Martin's TELLING WOMEN'S LIVES: THE NEW BIOGRAPHY
(Rutgers, 1994) for an easy to read, lively overview of the "issues" that a
biographer and an autobiographer might be forced to consider as s/he decides
what, how much, from what angle, etc. to tell a life story of a woman.  The
book is incredibly rich, drawing on her own experience as a person and a
biographer and includes a wonderful bibliography.
Then I would include some of the life writings of feminists who are still
active and who have done much to shape our struggle and our field of women's
studies.  Among them I would include (I am trying not to name anything that
has already been named) Louise De Salvo's VERTIGO: A MEMOIR (Dutton, 1996),
and Schuster, 1994, Pocket Books 1995) and RED, WHITE, AND OH SO BLUE: A
A lot of U. S. feminists have interwoven life writing or autobiographical
material with their political writing -- because their political development
is a major aspectof their sense of their own lives and because they are
committed to representing the political in terms of the personal.  Barbara
Smith has wonderful essays that use the personal and the political
toilluminate each other, as do Andrea Dworkin, Joan Nestle, and Minnie Bruce
Pratt, among many many others.
One of my all-time favorite collections of autobiographical writings by women
about their intellectual/political/professional lives is the truly inspiring
ABOUT THEIR WORK ON WOMEN edited by Carol Ascher, Louise De Salvo, and Sarah
Ruddick, recently rereleased with a new foreward by Carolyn Heilbrun by
Routledge in 1993 after Beacon allowed the 1984 version to go out of print.
I think I would never use only one book from any category of women.  In other
words, I would never allow a single individual to represent a category.  It
is as important to see the variety within categories as it is to see the
variety of categories.
So, for instance, in addition to the wonderful writing of Nancy Mairs on
disability, I'd include Connie Panzarino's THE ME IN THE MIRROR (Seal Press,
Lizard Jones' TWO ENDS OF SLEEP (Press Gang PUblishers, 1997) (reviewed in
the Oct. '97 issue of Sojourner).
and any of a number of others I'd be happy to send you the titles of.
Then, of course, there are all the wonderful collections of coming out
stories.  The first ones were lesbian coming out stories, but since the
COMING OUT STORIES edited by Julia Penelope Stanley and Susan J. Wolfe with a
foreword by Adrienne Rich, Persephone Press, 1980, and
LESBIAN NUNS edited by Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan, Naiad, ,
there have been disabilty coming out collections including the one mentioned
earlier on this list -- WITH THE POWER OF EACH BREATH from Cleis and one
co-edited by Florence Howe and Marsha Saxton from the Feminist Press (I can't
remember the title right now--Florence, if you're reading this, please fill
it in),
fat coming out collections-- SHADOW ON A TIGHTROPE and others,
class coming out collections -- WORKING CLASS WOMEN IN THE ACADEMY: LABORERS
IN THE KNOWLEDGE FACTORY edited by Michelle M. Tokarczyk and Elizabeth A.
Fay, U. Mass Press, 1993,
ethnic collections such as Helen Barolini's THE DREAM BOOK: AN ANTHOLOGY OF
edited byJudith A. Scheffler, Northeastern U. Press, 1986,
 and other collections focusing on a particular aspect of identity such as
motherhood or religion.
The Feminist Press has been publishing an impressive group of autobiographies
in recent years, too.  I would certainly consider them.
I would also think long and hard about which publishers I wanted to support
with book orders.  I would, therefore, after such thought, order as many
books as possible from feminist publishers.
My bookshelves are literarlly sagging under the weight of all the life
writings I have collected over the years, including some wonderful nineteenth
century books.  Elizabeth Stuart Phelps CHAPTERS IN A LIFE is a magnificent
book, wonderful to read along with her brilliant novel THE STORY OF AVIS.
I could go on and on, but I'll stop now.
Susan Koppelman <<huddis  @  aol.com>>
Date:     Fri, 17 Oct 1997 23:55:34 -0400
From:     "Constance J. Ostrowski" <ostroc  @  RPI.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

I have a suggestion of an example of a type of women's life writing which
is definitely canonically non-traditional, and which could help students
expand not only their definition of "autobiography" but also their
definition of "text"--and that is the life writing done by survivors of
gender-related violence when they tell their stories, in verbal and
pictorial form, on the shirts of the Clothesline Project.
I don't know whether there would be a local display at which your students
could actually "read" these texts, though local battered women's shelters
and/or rape crisis programs (or college women's centers) may often
display the Clothesline Project at various times; state coalitions against
domestic violence and against sexual assault will also often display
the Project, especially during legislative awareness (lobbying) efforts.
If this kind of text for a reading assignment needed any kind of scholarly
attention in order to legitimate it (which it shouldn't, actually--but
we know the system), there have been a couple of articles on the
Clothesline Project. One of them I wrote--a piece called "The Clothesline
Project: Women's Stories of Gender-Related violence," published in the
Spring 1996 _Women and Language_ (19.1: 36-41; citations usually list it
as beginning on p.37 because they do not, for some reason, include the
page of my photographs that faces the first page of the article).  The
_Women and Language_ article addresses the narrative aspects of the shirts
in the Clothesline Project (another article I've written, for a book which
is in negotiations, addresses the Clothesline Project from a rhetorical
perspective); by the way, that issue of _Women and Language_, a special
issue devoted to "Women and Storytelling," contains other articles which
could be valuable resources for your class.
I'd also like to suggest that women's quilts (at least some) might be
good examples of life-writing; I'm not an expert in this area, but have
seen some research that (to me) suggests them as a possibility.
Connie Ostrowski
ostroc  @  rpi.edu
(For background for those unfamiliar with the Clothesline Project, it
was started in 1990 by members of the Cape Cod Women's Agenda as a way to
enable women to record their experiences of gender-related violence.  Women
use words and/or various forms of pictorial representation to tell their
stories and speak out on shirts, which are often color-coded regarding
the various forms of violence, and which are displayed on clotheslines
in public places.  Since October is National Domestic Violence Awareness
Month in the U.S., there may be many local displays this month.  The
Clothesline Project has extended beyond the boundaries of the U.S. as
Date:     Sat, 18 Oct 1997 12:45:07 -0500
From:     Lynn Schlesinger <SCHLESL  @  SPLAVA.CC.PLATTSBURGH.EDU>
Subject:  women and autobiography

>> Past Due, by Anne Finger
>> Final Negotiations by Carolyn Ellis
>> both have to do with living with disabilities/chronic illness -- either
>> one's own, or others' (partner, child).
Lynn Schlesinger
Dept. of Sociology
SUNY Plattsburgh
101 Broad St.
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Date:     Sat, 18 Oct 1997 12:22:31 -0400 (AST)
From:     "D.K. van den Hoonaard" <DKVDH  @  ACADEMIC.STU.STTHOMASU.CA>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

I am new to the list, so this type of autobiography may not be of
interest to the original message.  Nonetheless, there is a group of
autobiographical accounts of women's experiences of widowhood.  These
include, Lynn Caine, _Widow_,  M. T. Dohaney, _When Things Get Back
to  Normal_,  Rebecca Rice, _A Time to Mourn_,  Anne Hosansky,
_Widow's Walk_.  I am aware of about 12 of these and have a complete
list if anyone is interested.  I'm also interested in any I might
have missed.
Deborah K. van den Hoonaard
dkvdh  @  stthomasu.ca
 D.K. van den Hoonaard
 St.Thomas University
 Fredericton, N.B., Canada
 Email DKVDH  @  StThomasU.ca
Date:     Sun, 19 Oct 1997 17:53:46 -0500
From:     "Amy L. Wink" <awink  @  SFASU.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

I thank everyone for their contributions to this rapidly growing
bibliography. I have one request-- or challenge?-- Many of these
suggestions are very recent and I hope to show my students that women have
been writing autobiographies in many forms ( other than fiction) for a
long time. What about 19th century texts, or earlier? What about Native
American narratives other than Leslie Silko's Storyteller? What about 19th
Century black women? Any other suggestions?
I will be submitting this complete bibliography to the list as soon as I
can manage to do so!
Dr. Amy L. Wink
Department of English and Philosophy
Stephen F. Austin State University
P.O. Box 13007, SFA Station
Nacogdoches, Tx 75962-3007
(409) 468-2007
awink  @  sfasu.edu
A Letter always feels to me like immortality because it is the mind alone
without corporeal friend. Indebted in our talk to attitude and accent,
there seems a spectral power in thought that walks alone."
            Emily Dickinson
              _Selected Letters_ (#330, p. 196)
Date:     Mon, 20 Oct 1997 08:25:57 -0400
From:     Glynis Carr <gcarr  @  BUCKNELL.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

For 19th c. autobiographies by African American women, consult the
Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers, series editor,
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  This series includes *The House of Bondage* by
Octavia V. Rogers Albert which "presents the personal narratives of former
slaves"; *Collected Black Women's Narratives*, intro by Anthony G.
Barthelemy; *The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke*; *Spiritual
Narratives* by Maria Stewart, Jarena Lee, Julia A.J. Foote, and Virginia W.
Broughton; *Behind the Scenes* by Elizabeth Keckley (about her years
serving in Abraham Lincoln's white house); *Silvia Dubois:  A Biografy of
the Slav Who Whipt her Mistress and Gand Her Fredom*; *Wonderful Adventures
of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands*; *Six Women's Slave Narratives*; and of
course *Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl* by Harriet Jacobs.
Glynis Carr
Associate Professor of English
Bucknell University
Lewisburg, PA  17837
gcarr  @  bucknell.edu
Date:     Mon, 20 Oct 1997 08:58:46 -0500
From:     Sandra L Spencer <sls0003  @  JOVE.ACS.UNT.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

One 19th-Century autobiography you might mention is _The Autobiography and
Letters of Margaret Oliphant_.  The Autobiography is unusual.
Oliphant was a prolific writer and good critical thinker, but her life
account is fragmentary, at best.  Of course, we can have a field day with
Sandra Spencer
spencer  @  unt.edu
University of North Texas
Denton, TX
Date:     Tue, 28 Oct 1997 17:58:44 +0100
From:     Teresa Malafaia <tvmalafaia  @  MAIL.TELEPAC.PT>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies

I have been following the discussion on Women s autobiographies and I am
surprised by Annie Besant's exclusion. Actually, I have been doing research
on the Victorians, I have supervised two thesis on Besant and I am not able
to understand why the present expansion of the canon doesn't include this
Victorian Sage.
Teresa Malafaia
University of Lisbon
tvmalafaia  @  mail.telepac.pt
Date:     Wed, 29 Oct 1997 23:23:59 -0500
From:     beatricekachuck <bkachuck  @  CUNY.CAMPUS.MCI.NET>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies

    The comment on including Annie Besant's autobiography prompts a question
for me: I haven't taught autobiographies, may include on or more in a
course. Are autobiographies read in conjunction with biographies of the
person and other relevant materials? I ask it because there are interesting
differences, some discrepancies and some consonance, between depictions of
Besant in her autobiography, a 2-volume autobiography and other sources on
England and India. This would occupy a large chunk of a course, tho it
seems necessary for students to have a context for reading an autobiography
   beatrice       bkachuck  @  cuny.campus.mci.net
Date:     Thu, 30 Oct 1997 06:17:17 -0500
From:     "Amy L. Wink" <awink  @  SFASU.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies

In my course on autobiographies, we will examinine issues of
self-presentation and self-understanding, as well as the issues of
autobiographical production; therefore, we will not be reading
biographies, but instead looking at the different issues of autobiography.

Dr. Amy L. Wink
Department of English and Philosophy
Stephen F. Austin State University
P.O. Box 13007, SFA Station
Nacogdoches, Tx 75962-3007
(409) 468-2007
awink  @  sfasu.edu
Date:     Thu, 30 Oct 1997 09:34:50 -0600
From:     "Sacks, Marc" <msacks  @  SPYGLASS.COM>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies

    Do "issues of self-presentation and self-understanding, as well
as the issues of
autobiographical production" include the way people writing about their
own lives can build up a picture very much at odds with reality?  I can
only assume that when Amy Wink teaches a course on autobiographies she
needs to point this out to students.  That is, one of the important
issues about autobiography as a research source is its relationship to
reality as gleaned from other sources.  Otherwise, autobiography would
be a genre akin to fiction.  How, if at all, does the course relate a
person's autobiography to anything outside of itself?  That is, is this
about literature or society?
Marc Sacks, Ed.D.
Senior Quality Assurance Engineer
Spyglass, Inc.
msacks  @  spyglass.com
Date:     Fri, 31 Oct 1997 08:16:03 -0500
From:     hagolem <hagolem  @  CAPECOD.NET>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies

The discussion about whether the teaching of women's autobiographies
requires also the teaching of biographies written by others or research from
outside on their lives, ignores that there are different purposes in
different contexts for studying autobiography.
If you are studying history or taking a sociological or political approach,
then you need to put the woman's report on her life in the context of what
is being referred to as a more objective appraoch -- although I would point
out that history is written by the winners and how women are judged is
always informed by society's views on how women should be.
If you are interested in the literary, in self-development, in the truth of
a life as seen from within, then what another biographer may say about
someone is irrelevant.
a woman may, as i think L. Hellman did, use a story which is an analog, if
you will, of what probably happened, but serves the same artistic function.
It is "truer" than life.  It makes the point she wants to make more clearly.
a "true" autobiography would be a verbatim record of everything, every
thought, every event, every word in a life.  There are a hudnred
interpretations of every life depending on where you stand in that life,
because a life is always being rewritten by the woman living it, as events
reveal the meaning of previous events. What the "reality" of a life is, is
not always easy to decide.
One of the reasons for studying women's autobiographies has been for many of
us discovering how the particular woman wanted to present her life, what she
wanted to say about it, what she thought was important.  Her values, her
words.  A peron's own words may not be the best source of "facts" but they
are often the best source of the essence of that person.
Marge Piercy  hagolem  @  capecod.net
Date:     Mon, 03 Nov 1997 15:21:38 -0800
From:     Barbara Watson <mbwatson  @  MAIL.SDSU.EDU>
Subject:  women's autobiographies

I would like to add another title to the list:
As I crossed a Bridge of Dreams; Recollections of a Woman in 11th century
Japan- by Sugawara no Takasue no Musume. Sometimes the author is listed as
-Lady Sarashina-. It is an account of a woman's life who wished for more
independence than she had. She is interested in finding herself, reporting
about pilgrimages to temples and gardens. While this was a perfectly
acceptable goal for males, male commentaries over the centuries (found in
footnotes in the book) claim that this woman has -nothing important- to
say, like discussing her marriage and motherhood. But, believe me, the book
is worth reading! barbara watson
Maria-Barbara Watson-Franke
Department of Women's Studies
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182
mbwatson  @  mail.sdsu.edu
Date:     Tue, 04 Nov 1997 12:32:15 -0500 (EST)
Subject:  Re[2]: Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

Perhaps a diary I recently edited and published might be of interest in
a course on autobiography.  Called "Dear Home," the diary covers two
years in the life of a woman who lived on a farm just outside a small
town in upstate New York.  At the beginning of the period covered, the
writer, Mabel Wait, is 23 and living with her widowed mother.  When her
mother dies, she is faced with what to do withher life and how to earn a
living.  Left a one-third interest in the family farm, she persuades her
married sister to become a "silent partner," buys her brother out, and
runs the farm herself.  Besides having to manage the farm business, she
also has to make decisions abouthow to live as a single woman and
whether and whom to marry.  The diary covers such issues as rural and
small town life, family issues, women as farm managers, attitudes toward
single women, and courtship.  "Dear Home: the 1901 and 1902 Diary of
Mabel Lila Wait" is available from Syracuse University Press.
Date:     Tue, 04 Nov 1997 10:13:34 -0800
From:     Donna Gregory <Donna_Gregory  @  MCKINSEY.COM>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

A rich and wholly engaging autobiography, Grass of the Earth:  Immigrant
Life in the Dakota Country, by Aagot Raaen (St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical
Society Press, 1994), with Introduction by Barbara Handy-Marchello.
Aagot Raaen was born in Dakota territory in 1873, the daughter of Norwegian
immigrants.  She wrote more honestly about pioneer life than most ("This is
not Little House on the Prairie!" as Handy-Marchello put it), discussing
the consequences of her father's alcoholism on the family economy and
alluding to the physical abuse that Handy-Marchello discovers in her
unpublished diaries.  She chronicles the farm women's raid on the Hatton
taverns in 1890 and her peasant mother's willingly enduring arrest and
trial for her participation.
Raaen grew up in abject poverty, and deals with issues related to social
class, opportunity and barriers to it, assimilation and bi-culturalism, and
forms of social censure and resistance.  She became a teacher and then
superintendant of her school system.  She travelled widely over the world,
became an inveterate diary-writer, and cricitally explored the mores of her
Barbara Handy-Marchello is an historian at the University of North Dakota
specializing in women's history in the northern plains.  Her introduction
is worth reading in itself for the insights it offers about women's
contributions to their domestic economies and other, largely unspoken,
issues such as alcoholism, physical abuse, and illegitimacy.
Date:     Tue, 04 Nov 1997 10:39:13 -0800
From:     Constance Fulmer <cfulmer  @  PEPPERDINE.EDU>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies/Life Writing

The Autobiography of a Shirtmaker is the personal journal of a British
Victorian woman, Edith J. Simcox (1844-1901) which is being published by
Garland under the title Monument to the Memory of George Eliot.  Simcox
admired Eliot's work and loved her although Eliot did no return her love.
Simcox was the author of three books, wrote regularly for the leading
literary periodicals, was an elected member of the London school board,
a leader in the trade union movement, an activist in support of women's
suffrage and other women's rights, and she and a friend started a
cooperative shirtmaking business in London's Soho which employed only
women.  She was independent, witty, and involved with many of the important
women and men of her day; she records many intimate details of the
difficulties of succeeding in activities usually reserved for men and of
her day-to-day relationships with family and other women. in the process
of editing this text Margaret Barfield and I have come to respect Simcox
and her work and to admire her personally.
Date:     Thu, 06 Nov 1997 00:05:45 -0500
From:     beatricekachuck <bkachuck  @  CUNY.CAMPUS.MCI.NET>
Subject:  Women's Autobiographies

I agree with almost all you say about autobiographies, Marge Piercy. Yes,
history, at least published history, the 'canon' is written by winners - in
some settings at some times - and we usually find what men think women
ought to be. But I think we (WS teachers) have learned to read that
critically and reading that sort of stuff can give us a backdrop for what a
woman tells us about her life. Moreover, there's a rich storehouse and a
growing one of feminist history and biography, also autobiographies on
similar topics, times, etc. for comparison. More generally, I wonder why,
since we historize and contextualize literature, history and so one, why we
wouldn't want to do the same with women's autobiographies.
    Yes, an artist can make a story 'truer than life.' You do that in 'City of
Darkness, City of Light.' But my enjoyment of the novel and appreciation
for what you did and how you did it came from my knowledge of the 'facts' I
knew about the period and the people you wrote about. I guess the story can
be read without this (It is a good story!) but for me part of the pleasure
was knowing the context.
    As to telling the 'essence' of a self in autobiography, I have doubts
about there being AN ESSENCE. Durable threads, often. But life is
complicated. I appreciate insights and revelations in an autobiography. I
don't think one has to be a Derridean to wonder what else there is to the
life we read about.
        beatrice    bkachuck  @  cuny.campus.mci.net

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