Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Edith Wharton March 31, 2011

As we wrap up National Women’s History Month, I’d just like to say a HUGE thank you to Kathleen. She sparked the idea for this series and has provide no fewer than TEN profiles this month (including one that we ran out of time to run!) So the only fitting way to close this month is to hand it over to Kathleen, and say, “Thank you. You are my Chero!”

By Kathleen Guthrie

Edith Wharton wrote 22 novels, at least 85 short stories, 9 nonfiction books, and 3 collections of poetry. As a highly regarded garden and interior designer, she was considered a tastemaker in the early 20th century. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and she was childfree.

A remarkable generation of female authors preceded the 1862 birth of Edith Newbold Jones, but they faced tremendous prejudice. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen* was first published with the anonymous byline “By a Lady.” The Brontë sisters used masculine pseudonyms to publish their poems and novels (Charlotte*, Emily*, and Anne* as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell). Mary Anne Evans* wrote as George Eliot so that her work would be taken seriously, not brushed aside as frivolous romances, all that contemporary society assumed women could write.

Edith arrived at the right time to make her mark as an insightful, witty, and respected critic of her times, and she wrote under her own name.

Edith came from a privileged background. The term “Keeping up with the Joneses” was apparently coined about her father’s well-to-do family, and she relied on her keen observations of New York’s upper-middle class for much of her work. While traveling extensively between her home in Massachusetts and Europe (she spent the last decade of her life in France), she produced a remarkable volume of work. She found early success as a designer with the publication of her first book, which she co-authored, 1897’s The Decoration of Houses. But it was as a novelist that she established her name in literary history, with classic titles including The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1911), and the Pulitzer Prize­-winner, The Age of Innocence (1920).

I can’t imagine she would have had the time or creative energy to be so prolific, so successful, if her days had been filled with the duties of a mother. Instead of offspring, she produced enduring works of art. Instead of encouraging children to use their skills and talents to contribute to the world, she put pen to paper and created a legacy all her own.

She wasn’t the only woman to give birth to books instead of babies. All of the women authors noted above with asterisks were also childfree.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.


Dorothy Quintana – A Local Chero March 30, 2011

Filed under: Cheroes,Family and Friends — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Thanks so much to Iris who sent me this wonderful story about an amazing local Chero in Miami.

Dorothy Quintana recently passed away at the age of 101. She had been a vocal activist in her community for over 50 years, fighting crime and drugs in her neighborhood of Wynwood, FL. In fact, three weeks before her passing she was at a local council meeting banging her cane on the table in her plea to get funding for a senior citizen transportation program. Her proposal was approved.

Dorothy was an active part of her Neighborhood Watch team, so vocal in her efforts to expose criminals that she had a full surveillance system installed in her home and always carried a gun.

Dorothy also opened her home to a steady stream of immigrants and refugees, ensuring they had a place to stay and something to eat. She had no children of her own, but those whose lives she touched said they all felt as if they were her children.

Dorothy Quintana was a passionate and much-loved Chero, and a true inspiration.


Marilyn Monroe March 29, 2011

So many words come to mind when we think of Marilyn – bombshell, icon, tragic, to name but a few. Her image is universally recognizable, and almost half a century after her death, she remains an enigma. Above all, though, Marilyn Monroe was a star. She understood fame, even if she didn’t always like it, and she understood that her image was everything. She played the dumb blonde to perfection, but beneath that veneer, she was far from innocent or ignorant. You only have to read some of her whip-smart quotes to see that.

I have a special affinity for Marilyn that I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on. Her movies are among my guilty pleasures, with Some Like it Hot topping my list. There was something fragile and untouchable about her, and yet she had a strength and fortitude that I admire.

Marilyn was married three times, to James Dougherty, and more famously to Joe DiMaggio and then Arthur Miller. She never had children.

I wondered if she was childfree-by-choice, and how having children would have changed her life, her career, and her image. This was during an era when stars disappeared to quietly give birth and then reappeared on screen as stunning as ever. Motherhood and sexiness did not go hand-in-hand.

But in snooping around for this post, I discovered that Marilyn had suffered several miscarriages and at least two ectopic pregnancies that were terminated. For me, this information casts an entirely different light on the sadness I could always sense behind Marilyn’s eyes. Maybe that’s the unexplainable thing that has always drawn me to her.

Marilyn is one of my favorite Cheroes from this month, and she’s also responsible for the quote that stumped almost everyone in the Expressing Motherhood contest! Fortunately, Jennifer Segundo got it, and by virtue of being the ONLY correct answer, she is also the lucky winner! Thanks to everyone else for some great guesses.


Joan of Arc March 28, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Joan of Arc has been known by many names, including Jeanne d’Arc, the Maid of Orléans, and Saint Joan. Born in 1412, this illiterate peasant girl rose to fame when she stepped in to lead the French army during the Hundred Years’ War, an ongoing struggle between the British and French over who could claim and hold the French throne. Here are a few highlights of her life:

  • When she was 12 years old, she had her first Divine vision when Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret came to her in her family’s field and told her to help kick the British invaders out of the country. She later revealed her father had “dreamed [she] would go off with men-of-arms” and, he told her brothers, “in truth, if I thought this thing would happen which I have dreamed about my daughter, I would want you to drown her; and if you would not, I would drown her myself.” She soon left home—without first asking her father’s permission.
  • At 16, she presented herself to military leaders, won them over with a prophesy of victory, and got herself appointed as head of an army that was near defeat.
  • Under God’s guidance, Joan led the French army in significant victories. She earned the respect of her troops when she was shot in the neck with an arrow—and in another battle was hit in the helmet with a stone cannonball—and continued to lead.
  • Her success on the battlefield made it possible for Charles VII to take the throne.
  • Then she was captured, sold to the British, and imprisoned when Charles VII refused to pay her ransom. She was tried for heresy in a church court. “Everything I have done is at God’s command,” Joan testified, yet she was convicted, condemned, and burned at the stake. She was 19 at the time of her death.
  • Twenty-five years later, the Catholic Church reversed her sentence and made her a martyr. She was canonized in 1920 as a patron saint of France, as well as for military personnel, prisoners, and the Women’s Army Corps.

By 1750, average life expectancy in France was 25, which means it was even less 300 years earlier. Had she followed a traditional path, Joan would have spent her brief life working hard, marrying young, and giving birth to a number of children, of whom maybe half would survive infancy.

But no one called her maman. Instead, Joan mothered an army, aided an ungrateful boy-king, and saved her country.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.


Guest Post: Terry Gross March 26, 2011

Credit: Will Ryan

Guest Post written by Laura Nye

Recently I was excited to learn that my favorite radio show host, Terry Gross, is childfree.  She hosts the NPR interview show “Fresh Air”.  A couple of months ago, she interviewed Stephanie Coontz who wrote a book about Betty Friedan’s book “A Feminine Mystique”.  Toward the end of the interview Ms. Coontz says the Feminine Mystique has been replaced by the “Perfect Mother Mystique”.  Terry comments that many women who came of age during the first women’s movement rejected the idea of being a perfect homemaker and decided not to have children.

This made me wonder if Terry was one of us.

I looked her up on wikipedia and found that she is childfree by choice.   At the beginning of an interview with actor and author B.D. Wong, she says she and many of her friends have decided not to have children.  During an interview with John Waters, she asks if he worries about who will take care of him when he’s old because many people without children worry about this.  He advises to have young friends!


Thanks, Laura, for a great post! ~Lisa


Help with a Research Project March 25, 2011

Filed under: Childfree by Choice,Childless Not By Choice,Current Affairs — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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University of Texas Psychology student, Lindy Lotz, is conducting a research project to investigate the life satisfaction of women who do not have children and how this relates to various aspects of life (e.g. desire to have children, pressure to have children).

She is looking for volunteers to a quick online survey. I took the survey myself and can vouch that it really does take less than five minutes to complete. As a plus, participants who complete the survey will have the opportunity to enter into a drawing for a $100 VISA gift card.

The eligibility criteria for this survey are women, 18 and older, who do not have biological children. There is no limitation regarding location.

If you are interested in taking this survey, just click on this link. Thanks!


Lucy Hobbs Taylor March 24, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

The idiom “like pulling teeth” is a fun way of saying something is “extremely difficult.” Getting out of a cozy bed when it’s 26 degrees outside is like pulling teeth. Deciding to train for a marathon when you’ve been a couch potato for the first 40 years of your life is like pulling teeth. For Lucy Hobbs Taylor, becoming the first American female dentist when schools wouldn’t admit her because she was a woman was…like pulling teeth.

Born in 1833 in New York, Lucy was determined to move beyond the traditionally limited female roles of motherhood, teaching, and nursing. She was after an advanced degree in medicine, but a college of medicine in Ohio rejected her application because she was a woman. Undaunted, she began studying privately with one of the school’s professors. She discovered a passion for dentistry and continued private studies with the dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery and as an apprentice. Still, the college refused her application. In 1861, she was only 28 when she opened her own practice in Cincinnati, which she soon moved to Iowa.

By 1865, Lucy had proven herself to her colleagues, and the Iowa State Dental Society accepted her as a member. That same year, with four years of professional practice serving as credit, she became part of the senior class of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. She graduated with her doctorate degree in just a few months, becoming the first woman in the U.S. to write “D.D.S.” after her name.

In 1867, she married James M. Taylor, a railway maintenance worker. With his wife’s encouragement, he also became a dentist, and together they built a successful practice in Kansas. Much of their work concerned dental care for women and children, although the woman affectionately known as “Dr. Lucy” did not have children of her own.

After her husband’s death and her own retirement, Lucy became involved in the woman’s suffrage and other political movements. By the time of her passing in 1910, a thousand women had become dentists in America. According to American Dental Association (ADA) statistics, by the end of 2010, there were 45,038 active licensed female dentists in the U.S.

That’s something to smile about.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.


Whiny Wednesday – In Defense of “Losers” March 23, 2011

With all this posting about great childless women for National Women’s History Month, Whiny Wednesday has somehow seemed inappropriate. But now it’s long overdue.

I don’t own a TV so I have no idea who Kate Walsh is, but thanks to the Internet, I gather she’s something hot in the world of television. And I do know that she’s telling MORE magazine, and a whole lot of other people, that she “feels like a loser” because she doesn’t have children.

I feel as if I ought to be compassionate about this, to assure Ms. Walsh that she’s not a loser, just because she hasn’t added “Mother” to her resume, and to point out all the other areas of her life where she isn’t a loser…but it’s Whiny Wednesday and PMS week, and I’m just not feeling all that generous today.

So, thanks Ms. Walsh, thanks a bunch. I know you didn’t say that women who don’t have children are losers, but you sure did imply it. Way to go to perpetuate the stereotype that we women without kids are unfulfilled, dissatisfied with our lives, and something much less than our maternal counterparts. Might I suggest you browse some of the profiles posted here this month and give a little thought to exactly what it is about your life that has disappointed you?

And I’m sorry, but you won’t be making the Great Childless Women list. (Loser!)

Ok, feeling better now. It’s Whiny Wednesday, sisters. Feel free to vent your spleens at will.


Win Tickets to “Expressing Motherhood!” March 22, 2011

Filed under: Cheroes,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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As I mentioned recently, I will be flying the childless/childfree flag in the upcoming show Expressing Motherhood in Los Angeles next month. If you (or someone you know) would like to see the show, I have a pair of tickets to give away!

All you have to do is answer a little question and post your response in the comments below. I’ll draw a winner at random from the correct answers on Friday.

Expressing Motherhood will be at the Elephant Space Theatre in Hollywood, from Wednesday April 27 through Saturday May 7. Tickets are good for the night of your choice.

The question:

Which famous childfree woman said, “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition?”

Answers below, please. Good luck!


Tea with Edna St. Vincent Millay March 21, 2011

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

“First Fig”
from A Few Figs from Thistles (1920)

This is one of my favorite poems and I’ve adopted it as a kind of mantra for life.

Its author was Edna St. Vincent Millay, someone with whom I think I would have enjoyed having a cup of tea (or something a little stronger.) She was a feminist with a reputation for her many lovers, one of whom described her as “a frivolous young woman, with a brand-new pair of dancing slippers and a mouth like a valentine.” She turned down at least two other marriage proposals before marrying Eugen Jan Boissevain. She was an avid vegetable gardener and built herself a barn (and later a writer’s cabin) from a Sears Roebuck kit – unorthodox behavior for a woman born in 1892.

But more than all this, Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of America’s greatest poets of her time. She won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Frost Medal for her work, and is equally well known for her beautiful sonnets as for her controversial anti-war poetry.

Thomas Hardy is quoted as saying that, “America has two great attractions: skyscrapers and Edna St. Vincent Mallay. If I’d been born 80 years earlier, I think I would have made a point of getting to know her.

[Editor’s note: For those of you just joining this blog and wondering what on earth is going on here, we are celebrating National Women’s History Month by featuring great women who never had children.]