Women Writing : ~Words Matter~
Rosalind Foley
Novelist                                                                                                                              Screenplay Writer 
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Women Writing

by Rosalind Foley on 04/09/15

Alex Trebek likes to ask contestants on "Jeopardy" about unusual hobbies or things they collect. The only things I've ever consciously collected are pictures of women writing, framed prints of paintings. They are on display in my office, these sisters of the word.

The majority were painted by Dutch and Flemish artists. One, I think, is Italian, another, French,  and one, British. My favorite is by the only American, Mary Cassatt. Called "The Letter", it shows the model in the act of licking an envelope to enclose what she's written. It's the most colorful of the bunch, and reflects the sort of calligraphic Japanese influence on Impressionists of the late 19th century.

Nearly all my collection came from postcard racks in museum gift shops. The Cassatt was my sister's note paper. That original painting hangs in the Boston Art Museum. Lucky Boston.

But what, I wonder, are my ladies writing? Are they taking care of business, arranging a rendezvous, or simply inviting an aunt to tea? Surely the young girl with her hair so tightly scraped back in a bun is intent on her studies. You can almost hear her earlier cries of protest at her mother's brushing.

In that first one of the two paintings of the woman in yellow, I imagine her posting the day's expenses in a ledger. In the second. a servant girl stands at a discreet distance, waiting to go to the market with the grocery list. The ever practical Dutch.

The one I think of as The Italian Painting stars an aristocratic beauty wearing pink taffeta trimmed with fur. She lifts a languorous arm and extends a note to a shy young girl who seems hesitant to take it. Why?

Finally, sorrow sits like a spotlight on a stooped old woman writing. She is flanked by two young women huddled in concern. The woman has been widowed, I think, and is in  haste to get the news to her soldier son.

It pleases me to concoct stories for these long ago writers. I am glad to have their company as I write.



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