The Soul of a Woman – what a great title for a book! And what a great writer, feminist and fighter Isabel Allende is.
This, her latest book is part memoir and part manifesto of her own experience, reflection and definition of womanhood. At a time when women are voicing their fears of being on their own in the streets of our towns and cities – after the murder of Sarah Everard in London; when certain hospital authorities are erasing the word mother and substituting parent in its place and at a time when the very word woman is under examination and being replaced by the unpronounceable womxn – Allende is a reminder of what for many the soul, the essence, of a woman is.
Just a reminder of how she defines womanhood:
“It is NOT what we have between our legs, but what we have between our ears“.
And it is the latter, in her heart, she knows will, in the end, win through
She learned at an early age that there was no freedom for women unless they had economic freedom, as she saw how disempowered her own mother was when abandoned by a husband and having to return to her family, where once again a man was able to control her life – this time her father. This state of dependence is what she has fought for all her life – through exile, black-listing by her own government, the loss of a child and three marriages – and along the way she wrote award-winning fiction, founded a feminist magazine and set up a foundation focussing on the health, education and economic independence of women.
She has never lost faith in her resolve and even now in her 78th year she firmly believes in progress and that one day men and women will have power equally. For a woman who was brought up in a strong patriarchal society and is now grandmother to non-binary grandchildren she has witnessed and welcomed progress and change along the way.
For the writer of the Soul of a Woman, Allende has the heart of a lion