Mary Clarke

George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ Large The French writer George Sand has fascinated readers since she burst on to the literary scene in 1832 with her best-selling novel Indiana and her shocking lifestyle. Sand was the best-selling and best paid novelist of her time, but she eventually became more famous for her unconventional life than for her iconoclastic, highly personal, and immense body of work. Sand was a social and political radical, a feminist, an ardent republican and a socialist. She was also friend and lover to some of the most prominent men and women of her time. Sand was born Aurore Dupin in 1804, into an unconventional and unhappy family. Jack describes Aurore's childhood as a tutorial in the nuances of class, inequality, and insecurity. Her father Maurice was a soldier from an aristocratic family, her mother Sophie-Victoire was “. . . a dancer, no, less than a dancer . . .” When Maurice married Sophie, his family was horrified. Maurice was often absent and in debt, so his wife and child had to rely on his mother, the formidable Madame Aurore Dupin, who despised Sophie for her lower-class, undisciplined ways. Torn between “two rival mothers,” little Aurore's life changed dramatically when Maurice died and Mme Dupin decided to pay Sophie an income for leaving Aurore in her care. Mme Dupin made sure young Aurore received an excellent education, but she was dismayed at the girl's active fantasy life and her failure to become a proper lady. Aurore was sent to a convent. Instead of reforming her, the solitude and time away from her family enabled her to spend time thinking and writing. Later, her unhappy marriage to Casimir Dudevant convinced her that marriage was a “primitive” institution designed to subjugate women. Aurore continued to write, to express her emotions, and explore intellectual and romantic alternatives. As she and Casimir began to lead separate lives, she required an independent income. She moved to Paris, worked for Le Figaro, collaborated on a novel with her lover Jules Sandeau, and created her own identity: George Sand the writer.

George Sand wore men's clothing and smoked in public. She had affairs with famous men she lived eight years with Frederic Chopin, had a disastrous fling with Prosper Merimee, and a lengthy affair with prominent lawyer Michel de Bourges. A passionate affair with actress Marie Dorval brought more fame and notoriety. The author Belinda Jack proposes that Sand often expressed feelings and ideas in writing before acting. Jack uses material from Sand's five-volume autobiography, and her extensive diaries and correspondence to create a condensed, balanced portrait of an artist exploring her own life and engaging the issues of her time.

Mary Helen Clarke is a writer and editor in Nashville.

George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ Large The French writer George Sand has fascinated readers since she burst on to the literary scene in 1832 with her best-selling novel Indiana and her shocking lifestyle. Sand was the best-selling and best paid novelist of her time, but she eventually became more famous for her unconventional life […]

Veteran political journalists and pundits Eleanor Clift and Tom Brazaitis interviewed scores of political women to answer this question. In their new book, they explore the possibilities and pitfalls awaiting women who aspire to the highest office. They also profile women elected at various levels of government and explain why female candidates win (or lose) elections. The fact that voters and politicians now take this question seriously reflects how hard women have worked to become contenders. A 1936 Gallup poll revealed that 65 percent of voters would not vote for a woman for president, regardless of qualifications. This book recounts how a feminist fantasy was transformed into serious possibility by activists, donors, and female candidates, all of whom took great risks to make it happen.

Clift and Brazaitis analyze Hillary Clinton's unique attempt to transform herself from first lady to senatorial candidate, and describe the emotional ups and downs of Geraldine Ferraro's groundbreaking candidacy for vice president in 1984. They reveal the problems that plagued Elizabeth Dole's run for President in 1999. The careers of women who have left their mark on Congress and state institutions come under the microscope: Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski, Ann Richards, Mary Landrieu, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Christine Todd Whitman, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Elizabeth Holtzman, and many others. The authors explore the candidates' motivations and behind-the-scenes maneuvers to get elected and consolidate power.

From these many portraits, common themes emerge. The most serious problem is money. According to one consultant: "Money and media nothing else matters." Women have great difficulty attracting money from big party donors. Some women have found ways around this bottleneck it helps to be successful in business first.

For female office seekers, family is a problem. Married women are accused of neglecting their families. Single women are assumed to be lesbians or "out of touch." Family relationships receive merciless scrutiny. Women must be nice, walking a fine line between "strident" and "weak." Toughness is essential; one opponent's political announced: "I'd like her for my daughter, but not District Attorney." Female candidates are often labeled as "bleeding hearts," although a new breed of conservative women has made this harder to do automatically. In addition to their informative accounts of women who have gone before, Clift and Brazaitis include advice from media consultants on how a future female presidential candidates can capture attention and avoid being stereotyped.

Mary Helen Clarke is a writer and editor living in Nashville.

Veteran political journalists and pundits Eleanor Clift and Tom Brazaitis interviewed scores of political women to answer this question. In their new book, they explore the possibilities and pitfalls awaiting women who aspire to the highest office. They also profile women elected at various levels of government and explain why female candidates win (or lose) […]

A Widow, A Chihuahua, and Harry Truman is an unusual memoir of grief and recovery. Mary Beth Crain, a veteran journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as Redbook and Cosmopolitan, recounts the story of her too-brief marriage, her husband's death, and her debilitating depression afterward. She describes her rehabilitation under the guidance of two Harry Trumans the President and the Chihuahua.

Crain was happily married for three years when her husband died of cancer. On the Christmas Eve after his death, Crain was in despair until she was guided to a pet store under rather mysterious and remarkable circumstances. She bought a Chihuahua puppy and named him after her hero, Harry Truman. From this point on, Crain weaves together the two emotional themes of her book: While continuing to mourn her husband's death, she was falling in love with her new puppy. She reveals how, as she passed through the stages of grieving and letting go, Truman's devotion and playfulness kept her involved in life and made her laugh. Crain shares the joys and trials of taking home a new pet. The tension in her household escalated after she introduced the puppy to her three hostile and imperious cats. As Truman expanded his social circle, Crain was amazed at the ups and downs of doggy romance, and she and Truman were forced to endure humiliating failure at obedience school. Crain's patience was challenged when an adolescent Truman decided that being housebroken was boring. Every day Truman brought chaos and craziness into Crain's life and kept her distracted from her sadness. Throughout the book, Crain reflects on the indomitable spirit and tenacity of her puppy's namesake, President Harry Truman. As she moved through this difficult time in her life, she was inspired by President Truman's life and words, and each chapter begins with a bit of practical advice from the man from Independence.

Mary Helen Clarke is a writer and editor in Nashville.

A Widow, A Chihuahua, and Harry Truman is an unusual memoir of grief and recovery. Mary Beth Crain, a veteran journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as Redbook and Cosmopolitan, recounts the story of her too-brief marriage, her husband's death, and her debilitating depression afterward. She describes her rehabilitation under the guidance of […]

For almost three decades, Betty Friedan has been a prominent writer, feminist, and political activist. In her autobiography, Life So Far, Friedan reflects on being a change agent while negotiating her own personal disasters and triumphs. It changed my life! was the typical response to Friedan's first book, The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963. Her exploration of women's lives and thwarted dreams exposed the boredom and isolation of suburban housewives. She astonished contemporaries by portraying this as a social problem rather than neurosis. Friedan outlined the mystique that lured women into narrowly defined roles, and revealed how media, business, and government marketed this image. As The Feminine Mystique became a bestseller and made Friedan a feminist icon, it is fascinating to see how dramatically it changed her own life.

As a child Betty was already an outsider, too smart for a girl and too Jewish for pre-war Peoria. Her mother provided an early prototype of the mystique : An extremely bright woman, she devoted her energy to manipulating her husband and children. All this pain aroused an interest in social justice. At college, Betty found both intellectual interests and a community of smart, socially conscious women. She finally felt comfortable with herself. After college, she lived in New York City working as a journalist and social activist and married Carl Friedan. Once the babies arrived, the Friedans fell into traditional roles: Carl left the theater for advertising and Betty became a housewife. The marriage unraveled. Carl stayed away later and longer. Betty wrote magazine articles, which were often rejected as unrelated to women's concerns of romance, beauty, and family. These rejected articles became the foundation for her book. As Betty became successful, her marriage became violent. Her account of championing women's rights while hiding scars and bruises is the most poignant of her stories.

The feminist movement grew quickly; in 1966, Friedan founded the National Organization for Women (NOW). She relates how the movement later splintered into various interest groups. Friedan herself envisioned more for women in the traditional arenas, not a radical restructuring of society. She ended up too moderate for the movement she'd created.

Betty Friedan describes a life in the vortex during immense social change. Her account of what happened to feminism, delivered in her blunt style, is passionate and thought provoking. Her personal stories both sad and joyful will touch even those unmoved by her cause.

Mary Helen Clarke is a writer and editor in Nashville.

For almost three decades, Betty Friedan has been a prominent writer, feminist, and political activist. In her autobiography, Life So Far, Friedan reflects on being a change agent while negotiating her own personal disasters and triumphs. It changed my life! was the typical response to Friedan's first book, The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963. Her […]

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