Spinster, certainly not a word most American youth would take kindly, regardless of whether they’re single or not. The connotations are endless and none that I can touch upon are positive – until I read Kate Bolick’s book. Spinster, the Atlantic editor’s debut novel, covers just what it means to be a single by choice for woman in society today. With no ‘plus one’ to accompany us or, rather, protect us, the realities are grit bare- the world is tough in general, but stands to be even more of a challenge alone as a female. However, lest we think that the first single lady to make living free cool was a New York residing sex columnist, Bolick doesn’t waste time in the opening pages in tracing back the roots of forefront and the key players that made it possible for us to be free to choose between marriage and singledom today.

Even before women’s suffrage and before the time it was even acceptable or remotely plausible to live alone, there lived Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Neith Boyce, Edith Wharton, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Maeve Brennan, five very different women who dared to shake up the confines and limitations of women in society during their times. As she recounts the struggles and eventual triumphs these women achieved, Bolick interweaves her mother’s decision to set aside her personal aspirations for marriage and children. Whilst her mother has no regrets for her decision, Bolick as her daughter does and strives to muster the bravado necessary to give voice to her desire to take on the world alone.

“The fantasy was irresistible-and bewildering…To be a woman sitting by herself in a crowded New York City restaurant amid the bustle and clatter of other people’s lives-what kind of a thing was that to want?”

I too share Bolick’s fantasies in admiring the single woman that flies solo rather than the woman who leans into her husband. In my mind, to be free from all restraints and obligations society expects is the greatest liberation and personal success a woman can achieve. Certainly, women have chosen a career path over being chained to the house for decades, so while the accolades of Bolick’s ‘fierce five’ may seem at times hardly noteworthy, it’s crucial to relate it to a time not so long ago when birth control did not exist or was hard to get and women who enjoyed multiple men over one in her lifetime was labeled “loose.”

My favorite of the women profiled is New Yorker Neith Boyce, who triumphed over the confines of women at the turn of the century of  by living on her own and working in the male dominated newspaper journalism industry. She eventually went on to write for Vogue magazine and coined the term Girl Bachelor. “I never shall be an old maid, because I have elected to be a Girl Bachelor. And as to regretting this choice, you know the saying of the philosopher, “Whether you marry or not, you will regret it.” While Boyce did eventually marry and bear children, upon examining her work, it is not the voice of a woman cornered that booms from the pages, but rather one of a woman who made decisions by her own head and in her own time.

Perhaps what Bolick strives to present in retelling the stories of these ladies is that, ultimately,  it didn’t matter whether they ended up married or unmarried,  it was their actions that proclaimed their “spinsterhood” in their lives. Even the author herself proclaims she doesn’t entirely shun the idea of marriage in the future and welcomes the idea of children, while still declaring herself an ardent feminist who is a “spinster at heart”. Perhaps the underlying theme is that together, as women, our actions to further the plight of women’s rights for future generations is what ultimately unites us together and reveals how close we lie true to our feminist claims.

Bolick herself details the throngs of her past relationships, describing how, even in the throwes of young love, she recognized her desire to be on her own, or rather her “spinster tendencies”, implying that perhaps some women bloom more brightly on their own. “In my mind’s eye, the spinster wish was the shape of that small, steel sylph gracing the nose of a Rolls-Royce, arms outstretched, sleeves billowing, about to leap from her earthbound perch and soar.”

I, for one, couldn’t agree more with some of her ‘spinster’ upsides, such as how there is no greater joy than a free, untangled day of solitude before you. This idea is not for everyone, though. There are those among us value our independence and occasional time alone but find that even the best of times can feel somber without an intimate companion. Bolick makes the case that the idea of a “woman having it all” can be achieved, with the focus being placed on a woman pursuing her work and lifestyle of choice while still maintaining respect in society.

So ladies, rest assured, whether you choose to marry or not, bear children or live out your days children free, never let the obligations or goals of another strap you down. In my case, should I ever be called a spinster by man or woman, I won’t let the word offend me  but will instead smile and respond with a “thank you” and continue on my life’s way, with a merry sway in my step, knowing that my next adventure lies wherever I decide to make it.

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Taryn Kelley has done her fair of living in a medley of locales but she feels no more at home than with the crisp pages of a worn book in hand. Owner of too many dogs and horses to count, she's been documenting her travels in and out of the saddle for as long as she recall (interpret that how you'd like!) She greatly believes in the adage that "well behaved women rarely make history," nor do they live a life worth living!