the woman alone

by rantywoman

I have tried to write about the experience of being female from the perspective of women alone– drawing first on my own experience and then moving the focus to the lives of the women I searched out, the single, widowed, and divorced women of this county, women without men, who want and need as much as anyone else to be part of a whole, not just fragments isolated from society and one another. pp. xi-xii


Most women still don’t realize they have a potential for separate psychic existence, which involves taking primary responsibility for one’s own emotions and adjustments to life. Within this separateness is true security, the best kind of all because it allows for freedom. But freedom, as Sartre reminds us, is terrifying, so most married women spend their lives avoiding any serious confrontation with themselves. Women alone must either face such a confrontation or retreat to the bitterness and isolation supposedly the lot of all women without men. p. 43


There are a variety of reasons why women are alone, but usually it is the result of a catastrophic event: a divorce or death. There are also many women who have never been married, either by choice or because they did not have the opportunity. Few women actually choose permanent aloneness, and most resent the presumption of oddity… The extent to which the women I have met successfully and happily built lives for themselves seems to correlate closely with their ability to relax about marriage… The problems for a woman living alone are severe, and it seems to me that most women either face them with a great deal of strength or with none at all. p. 55

— Patricia O’Brien, The Woman Alone [1973]