March 21, 2017

Childfree Celebrities: Famous Authors Edition – Women’s History Month

Cover of "The Second Sex"

Cover of The Second Sex

As a children’s author I once wrote a post about Dr. Suess and other famous kiddie-lit authors that didn’t have kids.

 

You can read it here.

 

Notable female childfree children’s authors include: Margaret Wise Brown, famous for “Good Night Moon,”  Beatrix Potter of “Peter’s Rabbit” fame, and Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women.”

 

Here is a list of other famous female writers, authors and journalists who made their mark on the world with their words and not their offspring. It’s quite an impressive club:

 

Elizabeth Gilbert – Author, “Eat Pray Love

 

Marie Colvin – Award-winning American journalist for the British newspaper The Sunday Times

 

Dorothy Parker – American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist

 

Anaïs Nin – Author

 

Melanie Notkin – Founder of SavvyAuntie.com, Author of “Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids” (Morrow/HarperCollins 2011)

 

Rachel Carson – Conservationist and author of  “Silent Spring”

 

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anita Brookner – British novelist and art historian

 

Amy Tan –  American writer best known for her book “The Joy Luck Club

 

Harper Lee – Author, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

 

Marian Keyes – Author

 

Maeve Binchy – Novelist

 

Virginia Woolf – Author

 

Hilary Mantel – Novelist

 

Simone de Beauvoir – Author, “The Second Sex

 

Charlotte Bronte – Author, “Jane Eyre”

 

Edith Wharton – Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist

 

Jane Austen – Author, “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility”

 

Isek Dineson – (pen name Karen Blixen) author of “Out of Africa”

 

Gloria Steinem – American feminist, journalist and political activist

 

WNKies do you know any other women that should be added to this list?

 

 

 

Vicki Larson: Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce?

Marriage and divorce rates in the US, 1990-200...

Image via Wikipedia

Vicki Larson: Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce?.

“People assume children are the glue that holds a marriage together, which really isn’t true. Kids are huge stressors,” says Scott, head of the Childless by Choice Project whose documentary on childfree couples was just released. “Despite that, there is a strong motive to stay together. The childfree don’t have that motive so there’s no reason to stay together if it’s not working.”

This article is great, really layered and probing. It answers a lot of questions about who is “childfree”, why, and what the impact of such status on their marriage may be. However, there may be some confusion, or even unintended/inaccurate conclusions, as all couples without children are lumped into the “childfree” category, including couples frequently categorized as “childless” (those who want kids but cannot conceive) that “make up the bulk of the childfree” in this story.

As I read the article I wondered how many of the divorced couples were simply victims of a decision to marry too early. According to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, the rate of divorce among people that marry before 25 is astounding. I also hoped for statistics comparing older married couples. How do those who CHOOSE not to have kids compare to couples with empty nests at the same age? When the decision  for parents to divorce can be made without complicating child rearing, like the childfree by choice, then who APPEARS to be more successful or happily married? (Not that remaining married is an accurate indicator of “success”) When I was in college, my parents finally divorced, and there was a rash of divorces among my friends’ parents as well.

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A Peter Pan Complex

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, she writes that the term matrimony comes from the Latin word for mother. She explains that while she is childfree by choice, many women throughout history have chosen the same path, or maybe nature has allowed for it to be so.  Gilbert notes that, at any given time in history at least 10% of women are childless worldwide. And during the Great Depression, in America, the number was up to 23%. Today the number hovers close to 50%.

Does nature know something that we’ve all but ignored? Does it really take a village to raise a child? Gilbert wonders if maybe there are extra women around to be “sparents” – “spare parents” to help out.

Savvy Auntie by Melanie Notkin

The popularity of author and blogger Melanie Notkin suggests the answer is a resounding yes. SavvyAuntie.com celebrates the childfree women who lend a hand. It is, “the first community for cool aunts, great aunts, godmothers and all women who love kids.” I am a proud member of this auntie brigade, with three gorgeous godkiddies. Savvy Auntie instructs kid-free aunts on everything childfriendly, from the perfect birthday present to how to save for a niece’s education. A review from Kirkus says it best: “A chic guide for new and experienced aunts that establishes their valuable family role. Challenging the cultural stigma associated with childless women, Notkin creates a distinctive voice that draws attention to the value of an aunt’s role in families…Communal childrearing at its finest.”

Of course the stories of the famously heartbroken and lonely “old-maid” aunties persist, and are part of our literary history. But Gilbert writes that these are merely creatures of myth, “recent studies of nursing homes comparing happiness levels of elderly childless women against happiness levels of women who did have children show no pattern of special misery or joy in one group or the other.”

Perhaps several works of fiction wouldn’t even exist without the help of aunties. Childless aunties helped raise and influence notable artists including: Coco Chanel, Virginia Woolf, Truman Capote, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

From Gilbert we also learn that J.M. Barrie’s inspiration for the spirit of his forever, youthful fictional character, Peter Pan, was found “in the faces of many women who have no children.” That would be me. And I only hope my own role as a Peter Pan makes me a valuable auntie and an excellent “sparent”…

I'm flying!

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