because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Rebecca West

Her real name was Cicely Isabel Fairfield, but she took the name Rebecca West from a rebellious young female character in a play by Henrik Ibsen when she was studying to be an actress in London and that's the name she's known by. Dropping out of school at fifteen to recuperate from tuberculosis and then unable to return because there was no money to do so, West began publishing as a writer early on while also hitting the streets as a supporter of women's suffrage and simultaneously becoming H.G. Wells' lover for a decade.

Her many essays and reviews in the best of the progressive and mainstream newspapers and magazines in both Great Britain and the United States made West famous, highly respected, and very, very rich before she was thirty. In fact, she was only twenty-four when George Bernard Shaw said of her, "Rebecca West could handle a pen as brilliantly as ever I could -- and much more savagely."

A complicated and thoughtful intellectual, West was anti-communist, but also anti-fascist. She owned a Rolls Royce and supported Margaret Thatcher's stance against the unions, but voted for the Labor Party. And she believed that women should be "feminine," but is quoted as saying, "I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." In-your-face women defy categories. Yay!

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