Wanda Wednesday: "In my heart, I am a woman."

I would think of Wanda Gág as a feminist. Her actions speak to that. She was a woman who was fiercely independent, had many lovers, and had a flourishing art career one hundred years ago. She definitely considered herself, on all levels, equal to the men in her life. I went through most of the diary (Growing Pains) wondering if she considered herself a feminist. Finally, Page 395, there is one entry where she writes explicitly about being a woman. It is a bit post modern here, as I will quote the entry in its entirety- and she quotes others, as well. Lots of quotes. She's around twenty-two, I think, at this time. This entry gives you a feel for the pacing of the entire diary, actually: a mixture of emotion and intellect, and day to day life that really puts you into her mind. The following is a direct quote from Growing Pains, by Wanda Gág:

'May 5th, Wednesday, 1915

'I am almost ashamed of myself. The thing just about drove me to distraction. I sat around and could not even cry. Perhaps I am a sentimental fool. Sometimes I almost think so. In fact, sometimes I'm quite sure. The funny part is that no one else knows it. They all consider me exceedingly neutral and unimpressionable.

'I read some verse by Constance Lindsay Skinner las Sunday. Indian Poetry. She has lived among the Indians ever since she was a child, and has subconsciously absorbed not only the rhythm of their songs but of their hearts and souls as well. "The Song of the Whip Plaiting" and "The Song of the Young Mother" gave me a queer feeling and another glimpse in the the great scheme of things.

"(Ah- sometimes- thou wilt be gentle?
Little roots of pain are deep, deep in me
Since I saw thee standing in my doorway.)

"I have quenched thy torch-
I have plaited thy whip.
I am thy Woman."

'"I am thy Woman"- and I shuddered with joy and fear. That, and the succeeding poem, struck a blow at a number of ideas I have held in connection with Woman Suffrage. Whatever Woman Suffrage will do in other things, it will ever be like this. The woman has to give herself over to the man. It's inevitable- for that is part of the great scheme.

'In the second poem: -

"Strange the pain came with love;
I knew it not until thy father sought me.
Yet-what woman would cast love out?
Gladly in the dusk I waited him-
None told me, not my mother, even, of the pang.

"..... Darkness... and his,
          utterly, in that dark.....
None had told me.....

"Ay, 'tis old, the custom,
Old as earth is old;
Ancient as passion,
Pitiless as passion-
Ay, pitiless, pitiless, the earth-way for women!
Bitter it is, the taste of bright sea water,
That he, who takes the gift, and wields our weaving of desire,
Knows not the meaning of the gift- nor can know ever!

 - - - - -
It is the law of the earth-way."

'I may change my ideas on the subject, but I doubt it. It made a tremendous impression on me. I walked around half of the day in a trance. I realized with a sort of fear gripping at my heart that I would do the same, that I would give myself over- and gladly at that.

'Mr. Dehn thinks I am neutral. I have made him think that. So you think I am neutral? In many things I am neutral, of course, but in my heart I am a woman.'
                                   -Wanda Gág, 1915

Professor Batty, in his research, found this photo of Wanda Gág.

She never did give herself over to a man. (At least, looking at the facts of her life, it appears that she always lived for her younger siblings and for herself.) Perhaps she gained some new perspectives on the topic, as she got older. It seems almost as if she truly believed in a great scheme of women giving themselves over to men, but at the same time behaved as though she herself were outside of that scheme. Wanda. As always, she's an enigma. 

1 comment:

  1. “She is an enigmatic person, a taut equilibrium of of many conflicting forces, caution and abandon, logical cerebration and jungle temperament, feminine sensibility and masculine ruthlessness, genuine humility and expansive egotism.”

    ~Carl Zigrosser, who was her gallery manager (as well as being one of her lovers.)

    I particularly like the line “… logical cerebration and jungle temperament… ”