Never married, over sixty and childless: Donna Ward on living and writing an invisible story.


Full Transcript Below

Donna Ward is an Australian writer, publisher and editor, living in Melbourne. Her 2020 book She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life energised me in a way that few books still have the capacity to do, so eloquently and accurately does it portray not only ‘the life unexpected’ (to paraphrase my own book’s title!) but also, the life ‘invisible’ which is that of the unpartnered, childless woman in our society. In a world focused and built on the needs, attitudes, prejudices and ‘stories’ of those who couple and have children, to be a ‘Spinster’ (a term which Donna reclaims and explains in our interview) is still one of the most stigmatized, problematized and ridiculed identities for a 21st Century western woman to occupy; to do so with dignity, candour, grace and humour as Donna does shows a grittiness of character few of us possess.

Although these days I am no longer single myself, those of you who have been long-time readers of my blog will know that I spent most of my forties and early fifties single as I found my way through the storm of childless grief. The singleness was often just as hard as the childlessness, something which came as a huge shock to me as a newly divorced woman of 40; I had no idea how much of my social acceptability was tied to being partnered until it was my reality; a profoundly painful and utterly life-changing experience – one which reignited the passionate feminism of my youth, which I’d put to sleep during a long relationship (and marriage) having unconsciously ‘dimmed my light’ in order to make it work.

In this interview Donna and I talk about what it’s like when your friends’ lives take a different path to our own, and what it is to live a life ‘apart’, and the vulnerabilities of old-age as a single, childless woman. We talk about how Fourth Wave feminism (and those that Donna describes as ‘the fierce feminists’) remain focused on issues of motherhood and partnership, ignoring the needs of many marginalised women in the world, from the indigenous women of Australia to involuntary childless and single woman like herself. We talk about the dark night of the soul that we both endured as we grieved our longed-for identities, about the amplified pronatalism of the pandemic and about how ‘singleness’ is a hidden story of endurance, of grit.

In the new, 2nd edition of my own book, Living the Life Unexpected  I’ve expanded the section on ‘Grieving Alone: Solo Women’s Grief’ as this is such an underserved and hidden aspect of childlessness – the experience of those women who deal with the social stigma and disenfranchised grief of involuntary childlessness with the additional ‘ambiguous loss’ of unchosen singleness. And in the Gateway Women private online community we have a sub-group called ‘The Single Life” for our unpartnered and childless members if you’d like to discuss this amazing interview with others who ‘get it’, and don’t try to tell you that “Relationships aren’t all they’re cracked up to be” or (as Donna and I discuss), that your singleness is proof that you’ve got a problem.

Donna will also be joining me, and a group of other ‘Inspiring Childless Elders’ for a webinar I’m hosting for World Childless Week on Wed 16th September. Sign up to my newsletter to hear when registration for that opens.

In the meantime, please enjoy this wonderful interview by clicking the video above. You’ll also find a full transcript below.

We mentioned the following books in our chat:


DONNA WARD is a writer, editor, and publisher. She holds two degrees from the University of Western Australia: a Bachelor of Arts in Classics, Ancient History and Economics, and a Bachelor of Social Work. Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s she worked in social policy development, welfare program design, implementation and management before she changed careers and set up a psychotherapy practice and management consultancy. In the late 1990s she turned her talents to creative writing, editing and publishing when she established and edited the literary journal, indigo, the journal of Western Australian creative writing, and later the online poetry magazine, Sotto. Moving to Melbourne in 2011, where she now lives, she founded the nationally respected micro-publishing house Inkerman & Blunt. Her fiction and personal essays have been awarded internationally, and appeared in literary journals nationally and internationally such as Southerly and Island magazines, as well as the Huffington Post, and The Big Issue. Her memoir “She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life” was published by Allen & Unwin Australia in March 2020 (it does not yet have distribution outside Australia; you can order it from The Book Depository which has free international delivery.) You can read the first chapter of her book on the Allen & Unwin website here and connect with Donna on Instagram and Twitter. Donna’s website is www.donna-ward.com.au


TRANSCRIPT OF VIDEO CHAT BETWEEN JODY DAY AND DONNA WARD

JODY DAY: Hello and welcome. I’m so excited to introduce you to Donna Ward, who is the author of a book that those who know me, I have been boring them about for the last few weeks. It’s this amazing book, “She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life” I waited for two months for it to arrive from Australia and then I devoured it and I need to let you see something, which is that when I’m reading a book, if I sort of think there’s something interesting on a page, I fold down the corner and then after I finished a book, I can tell how good it is by how many pages I’ve folded down and you can see and I did the sacrilegious thing. I had to get the pencil out for this book because there are so many parts and so many paragraphs that I’ve underlined and I’ll share one of those with you in a minute. But first of all, I wanted to introduce you to Donna, and for Donna to introduce herself.

DONNA WARD: Hi, how are you over there? I just want to take this moment to say that I come to you on the country of the Wurundjeri people and I’d like to pay their elders past, present and future my respects and say how wonderful it is to be coming from here, from their country, from my country, to, all the way to Ibiza. I grew up in Perth, Western Australia by the Swan River. It’s a huge delta of a river. And it really informed my life, in many ways, which I explore in the book. What did I do? I grew up and I did a degree, a couple of degrees at university. The professional degree I did was in social work and that brought me to Melbourne where I am now. And I came to Melbourne to work with multifunctional welfare agency and I then turned to psychotherapy. I’d been in therapy for a number of years and so I was kind of getting interested in that world. And along with a group of friends, I started, we started a psychotherapy centre and that went for quite some time, I can’t remember now the number of years and then my mother became ill in Western Australia and I went back home to look after her. But also, I just felt like my country was calling me back somehow.

DONNA So I went back and that’s where I learnt about, I thought I’d write a book. So that’s where I learnt about writing creative nonfiction. Up until then, I had written everything other than that and never thought of myself as a writer but I did want to write about my experience of being never married and childless. I wasn’t calling it a spinster then, I was calling it single. And the book was meant to be a kind of pop sociology, maybe a bit of psychology thrown in, a book, in a mainstream book for everyone but I have to say, I got terribly frightened as I was writing it. I got frightened of the ‘fierce feminists’ in many ways, in the academics because I was discovering in the research that had been done around the subject, that it was flawed and I didn’t feel trained enough, qualified enough, grown-up enough, to write such a book. So I kind of put it in the cupboard. I was a bit of scaredy-cat. And then I went on to publishing which is, that’s how scared I was. I went to publishing because that seemed easier. And I did publishing for a while and it wasn’t until I had managed to come back and settle in Melbourne again, I had a publishing company, I was talking to a dear friend of mine who was at that stage, the literary editor for the Sydney Morning Herald about another project, a wild idea I had and she said, “Donna, I think you should write a book.” And I said, “I’m not going to write a book, “How dare you curse me with that?!”

JODY – Those who haven’t written a book don’t understand how true that is.

DONNA – I was so furious. And she was alarmed at my fury I have to say, cause she said, “Oh, “so if you were to write a book, “what would you write about?” And I said, “Well, there’s the problem, “no one would read it.” “It would be about, you know, “a single childless woman on the threshold of a millennium.” You can read the rest on the back cover of the book. Actually, they’re almost exactly what I said to her. And Susan leaned forward to me and said, “I would read that book.” And I ignored her for some time. And then there was a book put out by Rebecca Traister, which just annoyed, can I swear, well, annoyed that out of me.

JODY – ‘All The Single Ladies?’

DONNA – Yes, ‘All The Single Ladies‘, yes. The title was problematic for a start but there were some arguments and you can read all about that in the book but yeah, she prompted me to get down and write the book. So a few weeks later I had a look at all the essays that I had been writing and found that in fact I’d been writing the book, anyhow, which is a good thing. I still had a lot more to write but I texted Susan and said, I think I’ve got a book, don’t tell anyone. So that’s a bit about me.

JODY – I might read the back cover now I know: “‘She I Dare Not Name‘ is a compelling collection of fiercely intelligent, deeply intimate lyrical reflections on the life of a woman who stands on the threshold between two millennia. This book describes what it is like to live on the edge of a world built in the shape of couples and families, rippling through these pages as the way a spinster or a bachelor or any of us for that matter, contends with the prejudice and stigma of being different.” Absolutely, it’s all about being different and I wanted to dive in to, now I could basically open this book at any point and find a section that I’ve underlined. So really, this is just one of many and it’s:

JODY (quoting from p.191 of Donna’s book):

“Being single is I think the same as being a parent. You have to step up to the project every day. It is different to being coupled. If a person no longer wants to step up to their coupling commitment, they can end it and face the fire of termination. But being single and being a parent don’t end, except by the onset of love and coupling or, in the case of being a parent, some kind of misadventure. Even when a parent or a single person doesn’t want to, they must step up and face the fire of endurance. And each time they face that fire, an unexpected vigour comes of it.”

JODY And, you know, I was moved by that, by so many of the passages and we were talking before we started the recording about some of the envy that during the pandemic, that some parents who are really struggling, project onto us childless women us childless single women. And I often, I feel you kind of expressed there something I spent a long time, trying to articulate, that there is a challenge within being single and single and childless that creates tests of character that are our burden to carry. And are our trials of fire, in the way that, it’s not that we don’t have experiences of depth and meaning and difficulty, just because we don’t have partners and children, but they’re often, they’re not seen.

DONNA – Yes

JODY – And I just wondered if you could talk a bit about that.

DONNA – Yeah, well, they’re not seen because and this is true in reverse as well, maybe I can talk about that later but our lives aren’t seen because they’re beyond imagination… Our imagination for a life –

DONNA – And you see this in the narrative of all of those sorts of ‘slice-of-life’ movies or read them in books or most dramas will have, you know, boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl or vice versa, they have a fight, they get back together and realise that they’re meant for each other, they get married. Some movies end there, others start there, they have children, there’s a conflict, there’s a problem with one of the children, there’s a problem with fidelity, one of the partners becomes disabled or incapable of being in the relationship. And so it’s all that kind of story. So there’s heaps of hardship that we really do know about. In fact, the fact that I just spun that right out there says we know all about that story.

DONNA But we don’t know the story of when one or none of those things happen. They’re not written about. I tell you our lives aren’t written about because we don’t have classic tension in the narrative. We can’t see it. I wanted when I was writing to try and find the tension in my narrative because there certainly has been tension. So I had to kind of find out, how to tell a story that went wrong, ’cause that’s all they are, they’re all stories about what went wrong. And they’re all stories about what went wrong given the backdrop of how we think life goes when it’s right. And so I couldn’t, I thought, you know, I can’t just tell that story that we often hear, the ‘Bridget Jones’ story about how terribly difficult it is until you find someone or the ‘Sex and the City’ story, about how everyone kind of does find someone but in the end but they’re still really good mates, But and then if you don’t, the older woman, is only lustful and I don’t know how she makes money, how she holds down that job because she’s having sex and booze every night. I just can’t live that life! So that makes the fantasy of ‘Sex and the City’ and yet people believe that’s the reality. So I think to try and say to people, this is what my life is. My first struggle was why are all these relationships failing? And to continue to talk with my friends about that who were clearly being successful in their relationships and then moving on to the trials of parenting or even just the trials with childbirth and all that that can bring or the trials of not having children through IVF or whatever. That they had a conversation going and a story going that when I kept coming in and saying, “Oh, you know, there goes…” (I refer to them all as Odysseus in the book; that’s my general term for them.)

JODY – And the ‘Calypsos’: I love that, I love that.

DONNA – Yes, so, you know, I wanted to get the metaphor of the repetition. For me, that was the first pain for me and I really felt it viscerally in my heart. I felt like I was kicked in the chest after a while, so many times I felt like, you know, I was, during that time Bosnia was happening and I just felt like I was in that war zone quite a lot. And I couldn’t express that to my friends because they had moved into a different story and they had moved into an understanding of life that says, “There must be something wrong with Donna because she is…”

JODY – And that is the narrative that single women are faced with. That you are a problem to be fixed and there must be something wrong with you. Whereas, you know, Sara Eckel’s book is so good on that, the ‘27 Reasons You’re Single ‘And Why They’re All Wrong.’ And you apply the slightest bit of logic to these kinds of stories about single women, it’s like, well, I know plenty, so much of it is luck. There are plenty of women who have all of the same qualities and all of the same histories who are in relationships

DONNA And parenting

JODY – Yes

JODY – That doesn’t seem to be taken into account at all. And then also the problematising of the single woman. It’s like, there must be something wrong rather than, as you say, being able to see, I love the way you describe it, the hidden story. And after a while, I think it becomes very hard to articulate that hidden story. If everyone around you is coupled because they also have, it seems that they develop a fossilised idea, of what single means, which relates back to an earlier period in their life, of sort of dating and mating and things like that. And it’s like but I remember when I was incredibly lonely, when I was dealing with my singleness, my childlessness in my forties and yet when I did get to speak to my coupled-up friends and my friends who are mums, they kind of all imagined I was having an amazing time.

DONNA – Yes.

JODY – And I said to them, who am I? Who is this kind of, you know, I don’t know if you ever grew cress in the airing cupboard, you know, you sort of put it on blotting paper? I said do you think I had a sort of kit where I could just like grow a new set of friends in the airing cupboard? It’s like the people used to hang out with are all busy doing other things now. I didn’t have, I don’t have a spare set of friends I can just draft in and I can hang out with, the loneliness.

DONNA – Yes

JODY – When everyone moved on to the next stage was so hard.

DONNA – Yes and I know exactly what you’re talking about. Now I have written a bit about it in the book. I had a friend in, in Perth actually, a man who knew when his old friends were coming to visit him, to check his life out and see how it was going because they were having trouble in their relationships. So they were checking out, visiting their single friend to check out. And he knew what that was like. And I have similar experiences in particular with women who, who are between relationships and that could be a marriage, between marriages or it could just be boyfriends or girlfriends or whatever but they’re between relationships and they form a much closer bond with me and they want to, they just want to spend time with me. And I can feel that they’re seeing this life and how it goes and that it’s all right. But I also spend quite a bit of time making sure they understand that this is as complex.

DONNA – And actually I think in the end, perhaps, they’re better off than a single childless woman in her older years because they will have backup, which I don’t have. And I have really had to have faith in the universe to provide. St Francis of Assisi is becoming my patron saint. But you know, there’s just that I think it will work out, but I think, fingers crossed, we’re in a pandemic and I have, our economy is just really down the toilet and I just have no idea how I’m going to operate in my vulnerable years in this world, now. I’ve had a very good idea up until now but now I have no idea. And I don’t, I can’t say, oh, it’s okay, I’ve got kids that will take care of me even if I fight with them every day. Luckily, I have landed geographically in a place where I feel for the first time in my life I have more than one neighbour that I can rely on. That in fact, I have a block full of neighbours that I can rely on and spread out throughout my suburb, I have several other people who I feel so that it’s so important to have that sort of geographical immediacy in my age. And I have to say, and I am sorry to say that my friends and acquaintances who’ve read my book now understand and I’m sorry that it’s taken me writing that book and a pandemic for this to come together. But I am so goddamn lucky, that I can write and that we have a pandemic because it has revealed that wonder to me. And so I can feel comfortable, I think, for the moment who knows what I’ll say next week about this because we just really don’t know anything from moment to moment. But it feels to me like, I’ve landed on my feet for the moment.

JODY – That’s wonderful to hear. I mean, I know many childless women and single childless women for whom the pandemic in other parts of the world has really exposed both their intense vulnerability and that sense of a lack of connections locally. At the same time, with a massive rise in pronatalist sort of programming in the media and the very real struggles of those parents who are having to work through lockdown and have their kids at home and the worries about how this is actually going to set back quite a lot of women’s lives. If schools don’t reopen, if childcare disappears but there’s been this massive sort of outpouring of awareness of what it actually takes to bring up kids and how if there aren’t teachers and other people involved, blimey, this is a lot of work. But without any corresponding awareness of the vulnerability and fragility and isolation of being alone on your own, grieving your childlessness, dealing with what I call the hashtag #FriendshipApocalypse of childlessness, which is that, you know, those awful years, as you realise that you’re sort of, you’re not really part of their lives anymore. You haven’t been cut out of their lives but you’re kind of on speed dial anymore. And I don’t know about you well, I do know a bit about you from your wonderful book but I spent time sort of investing energy in relationships where I wasn’t getting anything back for a long time. And there came a moment when I sort of realised what I was doing whilst I was grieving my childlessness and I withdrew that energy to see what would happen. And nothing happened and a big void opened up in my life, which you brilliantly described. Is it the gritty beast?

DONNA – Yes.

JODY – Yeah I really, I have a gritty beast as well. I think we all do when we meet that dark night of the soul, that’s where the beast lives, who’s our biggest teacher, as well as the very, very scary teacher but the biggest one. But I had to let go of so much. I had to let go of the story. And there was no other story for me to kind of step into. I was middle-aged, I was broke, I was living alone, I don’t have brothers and sisters, there’s this sense of, I felt that particularly when I was in most acute grief, that there was very little tethering me to the earth. I felt like I didn’t belong on the earth. I had no, no sense of rootedness at all. It was an incredibly painful period to go through. Like, where is my value as a human being, if I am not in relationship? I felt I was no longer in relationship to the world because I was not in relationship to my children or to a partner or even to my friendship group or even to society it seemed.

DONNA – Hmm.

JODY – And going through that changes you.

DONNA – It does. Did you feel grounded by the end of it? Like, did you feel a connection by the end of it or?

JODY – Once through, once I’ve been through my gritty beast, yes, I did and that was really the healing part of it, was finding almost like a new vibration to exist on. I had to sort of decathect from the narrative about women and really go back to a much deeper place inside myself and to reconnect with, I was training to be a psychotherapist at the time and, as all people who’ve trained as psychotherapists know but perhaps other people don’t, no one becomes a psychotherapist, no one wants to be a psychotherapist when they’re little. No one says when I grow up, “I want to be a psychotherapist!” The entry-level requirement is usually woundedness. So there were some, I had some deep wounds that I was carrying from childhood. And I think the process of therapy and looking at those wounds at the same time as working through my grief, I found a deeper place of meaning.

DONNA – Yes.

JODY – And that’s the platform on which I’ve built the last decade.

DONNA – Yeah, I didn’t have that floaty feeling. I felt like I couldn’t move most, I talk about a dream where I, in the book where I fell down and into a fire zone and with that ground zero, that felt very leaden for me. There were days when I felt like I couldn’t physically move.

JODY – Yes, you write that so well. In fact, I think I might be a little bit near that bit (quotes from Donna’s book, p192)

“Because in the Blue Stone Cottage I faced the truth that everything I set up to secure – a good job, a good marriage, a family and a close circle of friends would not come to pass. I was at ground zero. Desiccated and fragmented, I had to discover who I am when I am not close friend, lover, partner, mother, career woman.”

JODY – Massively underlined! Because that’s the thing, this sense of how do we shape our identity as women when we do not fit these prescribed roles? We sense that we’re apart but we also, we still need an archetype, a role in that apartness. That wisdom of the older woman, I think in society currently, we see… the very small section that even thinks that older women have got wisdom don’t necessarily see that a woman who has not been partnered and has not had children also has an incredible wisdom to share. I find that we are defined by what we are not, not by what we are. That there is a paucity of language which reflects the paucity of conceptual thought around being a woman who is unpartnered and childless. If we don’t have words for it, that means we don’t have the concept.

DONNA – That’s right. Yeah, well, we do have a word and the word’s “Spinster” and that’s why I used it. And that word, it began life as a very positive.

JODY – I was so happy to read that in your book ’cause it’s in mine as well.

DONNA – Yeah, it began life as positive but I’m in the mid 16th or 17th century, it began to accrue a more negative meaning. And it did that because they were inventing dictionaries at that time and they decided to define a woman who was unmarried beyond a certain age as a spinster. Up until then it was just the name of a profession and spinsters were seen as nubile, beautiful career women.

JODY – But they were the first career women ’cause when, I think I mentioned in my book, is if you married a spinster, you brought someone into your family who brought a skill and an income, as well as the ability perhaps to have children. So actually you were a bit of a catch.

DONNA – Yes, yeah, yes. A spinster was a catch and it had this great gloss to it until it became devoid of gloss and then it collected all these other meanings towards it. I’ve been challenged. A lot of people have said, oh, why did you use that word? It’s such a horrible word.

JODY – Isn’t that interesting? Yeah.

DONNA – Yes, I say it’s only eight letters in the English alphabet. ‘Spinster’, that’s what it is. It’s what we decide it means.

JODY – I do a thought experiment exercise on it in one of my workshops where I get women to sort of unpack the unconscious baggage they’re carrying around words and one of the words is ‘Spinster’ and what becomes clear is that the words that we consciously associate with it or what I call the ‘shadow side’ of the spinster archetype. And then we work on looking at, okay, well, what is the light side of this archetype? And we have kind of creative, self-reliant, educated, funny, well-travelled – basically powerful. And I work through all of the negative things, crazy cat lady, career woman and in every single case, underneath the shadow, which is the kind of the shaming side of the archetype, which is what currently is suppressed, feminine power. And you think, well actually all of the spinsters in the world and all of the childless women in the world, were actually to flip that archetype and start living from that other place. Basically, it would be the overthrow of the patriarchy. So you can see why. Because you would have millions of women who felt empowered.

DONNA – Yes.

JODY – Whole in themselves: we were born single, we were born childless, we were born worthy. At what point did we lose it?

DONNA – Yeah

JODY – We didn’t.

DONNA – Well, after a certain age, which apparently is the marrying age is when we lose it. The ‘fierce feminists’ as I call them in the book, have these ideas about what feminism is and feminism is really about motherhood and sometimes about relationships but it’s awful a lot about motherhood.

JODY – I get that. I mean, the second wave of feminism was so much about access to birth control, legal and safe access to the workplace, childcare, all of these very important issues and about delaying motherhood or choosing to forego motherhood. And I wrote that in my book as well but there is absolute silence on involuntary childlessness and involuntary singleness.

DONNA – Yes.

JODY – It’s really completely in the shadow and I mean, I did a lot of research for the new edition of my book that came out earlier this year, to see if it had moved on in the five years since I did the previous edition. And it’s still childfree, those women who have chosen not to have children, who are lionised (and I have absolutely no difficulty with their choice. I’m so glad that choice available to those women) but it’s actually a small percentage. I mean, actually it’s six to ten per cent of women who find themselves childless at midlife are unambiguously by choice. It is such a small amount of women who find themselves not mothers. I mean, ninety per cent of them didn’t choose that. Of that ninety per cent, ten per cent is due to infertility. So eighty per cent of women, eight zero per cent of women who find themselves childless, are childless by circumstance.

DONNA – Yes.

JODY – One of which and probably one of the biggest is your experience, not finding a suitable partner during the period of life, when, which was your family time. And yet that’s completely absent from the narrative, both mainstream and also within feminism

DONNA – Yeah, so I think, I often say, I am a feminist and I have a great love for feminism but I do have some problem with feminists and feminist research because they’re not wanting to see past the issues that they have made ground on. We’re having a discussion here in Australia at the moment about racism; I’m not quite sure where in the world isn’t. And so recently there has been a book that has been republished. I haven’t got it yet ’cause well, you know what post’s like here. It’s called, “Talkin’ Up to the White Woman” and it’s written by a Melbourne academic woman, who’s an indigenous woman and she, her thesis is that coloured women and indigenous women have found it almost impossible to say to the white feminists you need, we need now to talk about the oppression and the stigma and the difficulties being faced by black, coloured, indigenous women. Now I utterly agree with that. And when I was listening to one of the women on ‘The Drum’ the other night talking about this very thing, I could have just jumped through the screen and hugged her and said everything you said applies to me because they don’t also, don’t want to talk about a particular kind of life that doesn’t include children or either serial monogamy or errant husbands or I don’t know what it is They only want to talk about that story and because they now have power, they have the voice, they have the standing in the community, they choose what gets onto the agenda. Well, you know, Black Lives Matter is changing that and I think hopefully I can say something about that too but I’ve tried even in these recent months, I’ve written to a few media people just not interested. So one day, the moment will come.

JODY – A time will come but I agree in that I think childlessness is actually another part and singleness is another part of the intersectionality that the Fourth Wave needs to embrace and as yet, isn’t ready to do so. And… it’s interesting how scary, unconsciously scary our lives must be that so many people don’t want to look at them. And I just want to say thank you again for writing your astonishing book. I love the it’s called “A Spinster’s Meditations on Life” It’s luminously written. The stories also are of the land and your relationship with the land, your friendships over a lifetime, I really felt that I got to know Australia as well as you through this book. So, thank you so much for being my guest Donna. It’s been an absolute delight to talk to you.

DONNA – Oh, it’s been a pleasure right back atcha, as they say.


 

43 Comments on Never married, over sixty and childless: Donna Ward on living and writing an invisible story.

  1. Watched the interview on a very wet, rainy afternoon in the UK feeling a little sorry for myself. The silence and solitude of a single mid-60s CNBC woman isn’t always welcome. But your conversation made my heart sing. Two beautiful, courageous and wise women reflecting my story when I so often feel invisible. You are both pioneers and I thank you for raising my spirits!

    Sadly I can’t afford to buy the book just now but I do hope it will be made available in the UK soon. I’m sure that so many women would love to read it.

    • Oh Marie, I’m so glad to have been with you on a rainy afternoon in the UK, glad that at least Jody’s and my conversation lightened your heart. I’m in hard lockdown in Melbourne—half way through, I hope—without a designated person in my bubble. It is a serious challenge and for me it is great to hear of others facing the same challenges, living the same kind of life. It makes me feel less alone, less odd. It is very special to me that Jody and I did the same for you. I do hope you can get the book soon, now that winter is setting in for you. It’s crucial to have a companion through these times.

  2. This book would be useful to so many women around the globe who find themselves in a similar situation. It is still currently very rare to read around the topic of being single and childless in midlife, making it even more crucial to distribute this book widely. Are there any plans for this to be published in the UK and Europe?

    • I agree AB, there are hardly any books on the lived experience of being a spinster, mostly the books are ‘how to live it’, or sociological books that prove it exists, or not. That’s why I sat down and wrote my experience rather than focussing on the other aspects. Fingers crossed we’ll be publishing in UK and Europe one day.

  3. This interview and excerpts of the book spoke to me so much that I shared it with my single friends. When will it be available in the United States? Or maybe as an ebook on Apple Books or Amazon? I’d even pay a premium for an ebook since authors don’t get as much money for their work as ebooks.

    • Thank you so much Amanda, I am very heartened the book spoke to you, and really very heartened you shared it with your single friends. We’re working on finding an international publisher. Thank you for your support.

  4. Fabulous interview and discussion! I sure hope this book becomes available to everyone who wants to read it. I was able to find a copy via a secondary copy on Amazon — not cheap, but worth the investment!

  5. What a fantastic discussion. I searched for this book online a couple of weeks ago and finally managed to track it down on Amazon in Australia and was able to read the first section in the ‘Look inside’. I loved it. So much made sense to me. Donna’s thoughts about silence and solitude really resonated with me. I love the idea of reclaiming the word spinster. I am 42 and am Childless Not by choice and I am single. I wanted to read the rest of the book but it wouldn’t let me order and I can’t seem to find it available anywhere in the UK. Will it be made available in the UK at some point?

    • Hi Mary, I sure hope it’s made available in the UK soon. It’s truly wonderful you resonated with my thoughts and experience of silence and solitude, these two experiences are at the core of being a spinster.

  6. What a great interview. Thank you to both Donna and Jody for putting the experience of single, childless women out there in such an articulate manner. So resonant and relatable to my experience. I have often said that I feel like an alien in this world. There is definitely couple and family privilege in society that needs to be addressed. The single, childless voice and story needs to be told and heard. Thank you to both of you women for telling it so well. I need to read this book ASAP. Please have it accessible in North America … I’m in Canada.

  7. I would really like to buy this in Scotland or in the UAE, when would that be available? Childless women are a growing section of global populations and I know this would be very much of interest to women outside of Australia.

    • Elspeth, I would seriously love you to have this in Scotland! I had a Scottish grandmother, from Bowmore, Isle of Islay. She taught me many things, but she did not teach me about whisky. She didn’t drink. I found out about whisky myself. It was in my soul.

  8. Lovely, insightful interview… grateful to Donna for writing this, hoping this will be available to purchase in the uk as I’d love to read it. Even though I’m not single much of the interview resonated with me as I’m #CNBC. Also love the tearing down of the negative connotations of the word ‘spinster’ – I’ve always thought of the word as ‘spinning a bright thread through the rich tapestry of life’ and wish more would realise the beauty and wisdom of our single sisters. I look forward to being able to purchase a copy in this country!

    • Thank you bamberlamb, what a shining image of the spinster. I am very glad you resonated with the book. We are all have something that singles us out from the main, the task of life is to be different and proud, or at least very pleased with oneself.

  9. Fascinating interview, I wanted to pick up ‘She I Dare Not Name’ right away but sadly it doesn’t appear on sale in the UK. Hope it soon will be. I can’t wait to sit down to this story.

  10. Thanks for writing and discussing this very important book as it focuses on a topic that is the reality for millions of people everywhere around the world. I would love to read it and am waiting for the day it will be available in The Netherlands.

  11. Fantastic interview and I could relate to so much of the content. I’d really like to read this book, in the hope it becomes available in the UK very soon

  12. I look forward to reading this when it’s available in the US! And my library has been great about acquiring books that I suggest on the theme of childlessness, so I’ll surely recommend it to them.

  13. This book is an important contribution to millions of us trying to navigate through a world in which we are not seen. Thank you! This is a hugely relevant conversation about the invisible reality of so many women, who through society’s blatant lack of acknowledgement, feel utterly alone. A sorely needed book here in the US, I look forward to ordering it as soon as it’s available. When is the anticipated release date?

  14. Fantastic interview. I sincerely hope ‘She I Dare Not Name..’ gets published in the UK and not a moment too soon. It would be read so widely.

  15. Loved this interview on the “taboo” topic. I, and many of my unpartnered friends talk about singleness and bemoan the fact there’s nothing worthwhile written about it. How can we get the book in the US? Thanks for writing it Donna!

    • Thank you, Susan. I’d like to say it was a pleasure to write, but it was more flint and grit than pleasure implies. It was awesome in the wholeness of the word. And I am glad it’s in the world. Let’s hope it gets to you real fast.

  16. This book and this woman are just what I need to know. I’m a UK resident and would love to be able to get hold of the book there. Is it available there yet?

  17. Like you I am childless and single, and over 60, and feel happy with my lot, but realize that to most people I am a bit of an anomaly. There is a curiosity I find some have as to why I am not attached. I like the word ‘crone’, and that in some respects I stand outside of society yet am embedded within it. I didn’t choose not to have children, and nor did I choose to have them. From a very young age, I thought that to want children and not be able to have them would be very sad ( I had a teacher who was childless and I felt her grief, but I was the beneficiary of her childlessness). Circumstances weren’t right, and my maternal drive was thwarted, in part through watching my own mother’s troubled life and to some extent mothering her. I find it hard in that not having children does leave you viewed in a way I don’t like, and society, especially men will say stupid things about childless women. As for being single, I prefer to be happy on my own than unhappy in a relationship. I like that you have reclaimed spinster. Spinning things, wise woman and so on. I look forward to reading your book. Also that you are a psychotherapist, in that position. I recollect reading Women with Run with Wolves, and other books, and the childless, single woman, is always left out of the picture, it’s always about women with offspring and grandchildren.

    • Oh Sarah, I could not agree with you more. In almost all literature and theoretical musings and sociological research, being a woman seems synonymous with mothering to the exclusion of all the other kinds of lives that women live. You have clearly had a rich and varied life, and I understand, deeply, the thwarting of a woman’s maternal drive as a result of the story and ways of our mothers. I have met many women and men who explain their childlessness, and even their partnerless-ness, as having actively chosen against repeating the family life of their childhood. Yet even this courageous and astute choice is seen as an aberration, something to be questioned and considered sinister, rather than being endorsed and respected as a rational, self-respecting decision.

      Thank you for your thoughts, I look forward to your reflections after reading the book.

  18. Wonderful and delightful interview, so excited to see more about singles getting some much needed attention! Would love to be able to get this book in the US…I know so many singles here who would love to read this here!

  19. What a fascinating conversation, Jody! I would love to read Donna’s book… unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available in Canada (yet?). I will look forward to getting my hands on it, someday…!

  20. Thank you for writing this book and sharing your experience. I look forward to reading it but am in the US. Are there any plans for more widespread distribution beyond Australia?

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