Whispering in the ear of nature’s secrets: Harriet Monroe

In Nature's Altars, Susan Schrepfer looks at how much it meant to women of the turn of (the 20th) century to go to the mountains. She writes:

"High altitudes…released [women], they said, from the requirement of being a consumer, from "clothes and vanities," from the corsseted, perfumed, and coiffured dictates of polite society. Of a trip into the Sierra's Kern Canyon in l908, Harriet Monroe confided:"

Harrietmonroe"We learned…to wear our short skirts and high hob-nailed boots…as though we had been born to the joy of them…to be a barbarian and a communist, a homeless and roofless vagabond, liited to one gown or one suit of clothes, to lose one's last hat-pin…to make one's toilet on a slippery bnak, after a brave plunge into an icy river — all these breaches of convention became commonplaces…part of the adventure, a whispering in the ear of nature's secrets. We knew literally the emancipation of having "one one dress" to put on." 

After her adventures in the mountains, Monroe went on to launch Poetry, which is still this nation's best journal for lyrical thought.  

Fascinating to see how women saw mountain life as freedom, whereas so often men saw it as a competition — between man and mountain, man and rival man, man and beast. 

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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