Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Saluting a Four-Star General August 31, 2012

Photo credit: U.S. Army photo

This post was originally published on March 10, 2011 as part of National Women’s History Month.

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

To follow the trajectory of a Hollywood starlet or celebrity fashionista, just open the pages of a current pop culture magazine or click onto one of the gossip-fueled Web sites. You can read about their many romances, fashion hits and misses, critiques of past performances, and buzz about their latest projects.

Now, if you really want to be impressed by a rising star, visit http://www.army-mil, the official homepage of the United States Army, and read up on Ann E. Dunwoody. Her bio will dazzle you with its listing of her responsibilities and awards. Highlights include service in Desert Storm and being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (twice) and the Legion of Merit (three times). In 2008, she further distinguished herself, and established her place in our history, when she became our first female four-star general.

I need to repeat that: Our first female four-star general.

In an organization that has been historically male-centric, this is an extraordinary achievement. Yet “… I grew up in a family that didn’t know what glass ceilings were,” she said at the time of her nomination. “This…only reaffirms what I have known to be true about the military throughout my career, that the doors continue to open for men and women in uniform.”

I was going to hail her as a trailblazer until I read this quote, an example of her humility, character, grace, and leadership: “I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier. I recognize that with this selection, some will view me as a trailblazer [yup], but it’s important that we remember the generations of women whose dedication, commitment, and quality of service helped open the doors of opportunity for us today.”

Join me in saluting General Ann E. Dunwoody, soldier, wife, childfree woman, and door opener.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods 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.

 

Chero: Marilyn Monroe August 24, 2012

This post was originally published on 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.

 

Chero: Joan of Arc August 10, 2012

This post was originally published on March 28, 2011.

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods


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 Woods 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.

 

National Women’s History Month: Cheroes February 10, 2012

Next month is National Women’s History Month and last year we celebrated by featuring profiles of some inspiring Cheroes (childfree heroes.) Marilyn Monroe, Mary Cassatt and Billie Jean King were among some of the famous favorites, but we also had profiles of lesser-known cheroes, such as Lucy Hobbs Taylor – America’s first female dentist – and Dorothy Quintana, a local community crime fighter who passed away last year at the age of 101. If you weren’t here last year, you can check out the profiles here.

Many readers commented how inspired they were by these extraordinary women who left behind (or are working to leave behind) incredible legacies, so I thought I’d run a new series this year.

But I need your help.

If you have a favorite chero, if there’s a well known woman you admire who didn’t or doesn’t have children, or a local chero who’s making a difference in your community, let me know about her. Send me a short profile (doesn’t have to be in-depth or great literature) and a short two-sentence bio about yourself (even if it’s a made up bio about your online alter-ego), and I’ll add it to the line-up for March. You can send it to me through the contact page or email it to me at: editor [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com.

I’m looking forward to hearing about the women who inspire you. For now, here’s a little encouragement: Lillian Wald

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Gertrude Ederle August 1, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Gertrude Ederle was a champion, a trailblazer, a celebrity, and a “chero,” a hero who happened to be childfree. Saturday marks the 85th anniversary of her historic swim across the English Channel.

Gertrude was born in 1905 in New York and became a competitive swimmer at a young age. At just 13, she joined and began training at the Women’s Swimming Association (WSA), and soon she had broken and established more amateur records than any other woman around the world.

In 1924, she won a gold medal with the 400-meter freestyle relay team, and bronze medals for the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyle events at the Olympics in Paris, France. She was disappointed by her third-place wins, since she was favored to win gold in all events, so she looked for new challenges. In 1925, she crossed the Lower New York Bay in just over seven hours, a distance of 21 miles. Then, later in the year, she made her first attempt to swim the English Channel, but her trainer pulled her out before she could finish.

Undaunted, she made her next attempt starting from France on the morning of August 6, 1926. Sometime around hour 12, someone on one of the tugboats following her became concerned about the weather and choppy waves and shouted to her, “Gertie, you must come out!” She replied, “What for?” She stepped onto the English shore 22.5 miles and 14 hours and 39 minutes after her first stroke, beating the men’s record by nearly two hours. Her record held until 1950. At 21, she had become the first woman to swim the English Channel.

Back home in New York City, Gertrude was celebrated with a ticker-tape parade. “Queen of the Waves,” the press called her. She had brief career in entertainment, including playing herself in the 1927 movie Swim Girl, Swim. After the hoopla quieted, she devoted herself to teaching deaf children how to swim. She herself had suffered from hearing problems due to a childhood bout with measles, which left her completely deaf by 1940. She passed away at 98 in 2003.

“People said women couldn’t swim the Channel,” Gertrude said in 1930, “but I proved they could.”

Indeed she did.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She continues to find inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree).

 

It Got Me Thinking…About National Childfree Women’s History Month April 4, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

The simplest things can be life-changing. I saw something in the news about March being National Women’s History Month, I mentioned to Lisa that we should profile some great women in history (who happen to be childfree), and a series was born.

Oh, if you could have been a fly on my wall during the research stage. Susan B. Anthony was childfree—yes! And So-n-so was this and that but…oh, wait, she adopted a child… Crap! It was not always pretty, but it was fun assembling what I consider an impressive list, and I hope you enjoyed getting to know more about our history.

The repercussions have been eye-opening and amazing. I told my sister and sister-in-law, both mommies, about the series, and got a conversation started about how we can be more compassionate when we listen to our childfree friends. I spoke to a female dentist who had never before heard of Lucy Hobbs Taylor, the trailblazing woman who made it possible for 45,000+ women to be dentists in the United States today. One friend e-mailed me to tell me about a conversation she had at a dinner party. Her husband informed the group that women can only be 1-star generals. “NOT SO!” my friend announced, nearly jumping out of her seat. “Ann Dunwoody is a FOUR-star general!” Just a little factoid she learned on LifeWithoutBaby.com.

I now feel “armed” with information about how childfree women have and do contribute to society in meaningful ways. And I’m inspired. The women we’ve met along the way are my “cheroes.” Let’s follow their examples and look forward to the day when we, too, are celebrated during National (Childfree) Women’s History Month.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.

 

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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Credit: C.M. GUERRERO / EL NUEVO HERALD

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.