“I have never had an impulse to go to the altar. I am a difficult person to lead.” Greta Garbo.
WARNING: These words have been uttered by a woman who, two days ago, received a pity Valentine's card from her dad. The annual pity Valentine's card she receives from her dad. But this year, there was another card. One she didn't get every year. She tore into it eagerly. Hopeful. It was another pity valentine's card from her dad, impersonating the cat.
In case you haven’t seen the lashings of menstruation red everywhere, it's the day of love. The day of romance. The day that spaghetti strands wait for their whole pasta lives. Valentine's Day. So I’m taking time out of my busy, unmarried day of shouting along to prog-rock and spilling everything I eat and drink down myself to tell you this: there were plenty-a-fantastic woman who lived her life solo. Really.
The worst of it? As a woman we're meant to be passive in this whole charade. So if you don't get a card or flowers or jewellery or a proposal, you're fucked. You can't take matters into your own unwanted hands. You can't express your love for someone who may have been unable to show you theirs. You just have to accept the fact that you're not somebody's valentine and bury your face in the chocolates you bought yourself.
Dry your eyes. And welcome to the world of women who never put a ring on it.
“I would rather be a beggar and single than a Queen and married.”
Her mother was beheaded, her dad was Henry VIII, she was labelled a bastard and thrown in prison by her sister - Liz had more drama in her formative years than the entire cast of Hollyoaks. So by the time she was finally crowned queen at 25, she was a hard nut. Infamously dubbed ‘The Virgin Queen’ her lack of nuptials is probably the most remembered thing about her. She is the original single girl.
Things were complicated back in 1558. We didn’t like the Spanish, we weren’t keen on the French either. We had major beef with the Catholics. We weren’t happy with folk who sympathised with any of the above, so you can see how choosing a potential hubby would have been a ‘mare for a young monarch.
welcome to the world of women who never put a ring on it.
But maybe, just maybe, she just didn’t want to get married? Maybe the right man never asked? Maybe she wasn’t a virgin and she was shagging everything that curtsied. Maybe she was starring in her very own Tudor romp; Sex and the Armada.
Personally, I always like to think of Liz as Bette Davis portrays her in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and The Virgin Queen - In her public life: powerful, strong, enigmatic, witty. In her personal life: a melodramatic with a penchant for younger men and a woman who was simply unwilling to settle for anything but knicker-damping passion.
“Great loves too, must be endured*.”
Coco Chanel was an outspoken, smoking harlot with bobbed hair and bright makeup who changed the way women wear clothes. She's that significant. She basically masterminded the idea that actually, it's okay for women to be comfortable because they can still look chic without industrial strength wire and more layers than a particularly gaudy trifle. She brought trousers to womenswear. And she is responsible for the twentieth century dating staple; the LBD.
Because of this, she's considered the architect of the modern woman. Coco Chanel was the poster girl for career women, not only because she was a career woman but because of the dismantling of tradition that her clothes represented.
She also remained unmarried until the day she died. When the Duke of Westminster asked Chanel to marry him, she declined, saying that - “I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” I'd like to propose a notion that this be the universally patented code phrase for casual sex.
*I expect the following sentence was something along the lines of “like smear tests”.
Joan of Arc
“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
French heroine, warrior, saint and tomboy extraordinaire, Joan kicked serious Anglo arse during the Hundred Year War when she was just a teenager. She threw herself out of a prison tower window, the English were scared of her because they thought she had supernatural powers. The long and short of it is she was fearless. Being a peasant girl in medieval France, pretty much the only expectation for her was to get hitched and have a family. Her father wanted her to get married, even tried to persuade her to, but Joan refused. She said she'd been spoken to by God and she had to follow her calling.
Joan of Arc's short haircut had a profound effect on women's hairstyles in the twentieth century. Joan's barnet was the inspiration for the bob. The style became popular in the 1920s (thanks to the likes of aforementioned single lady Ms Coco Chanel) and was the mark of a liberated woman, ending centuries of stigma about women with short hair and femininity. It's still known in French as coupe à la Jeanne d'Arc.
She's inspired cultural depictions and reinventions for nearly six hundred years. She's a symbol of female heroism. A feminist mascot. She refused to live her life according to all the constraints that were imposed on women. And she wasn't afraid to do that alone.
Becky Shepherd Becky’s latest endeavor, All Quiet On The Wench Front is attempting to write the wrongs of history, one brilliant woman at a time.