I have been thinking about communities of women. I’ve encountered two literary ones recently, in very different books. Given who she is, it’s not surprising that Phyrne Fisher seems to know every female doctor, lawyer, pilot or adventurer in 1920s Melbourne (all one of them, in some cases). She also runs into a wide swath of the city’s other professional women – writers, editors, modistes and so on, as well as a women’s club (I suspect it was modeled on London’s Cavendish Club, founded in 1920 as a refuge for VAD veterans.) There’s also mention of Phryne’s inclusion, during her time in Paris, in the women’s arts community there in the days of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Dolly Wilde (Oscar’s niece) and Marion “Joe” Carstairs.

We see a bit of a similar community in Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor – though this one doesn’t have the historical basis of Phryne’s, of course. Maia’s – the Emperor’s – sister even makes it explicit: “Of course, when we say ‘friend’, we do not necessarily mean we like the person particularly. We mean that she shares with us the belief that women can and should do the same intellectual work as men.”

I got to thinking about those communities, and about the first literary sisterhood of professional women I ever met – the one Louisa May Alcott drew in “An Old-Fashioned Girl”: “Polly came to know a little sisterhood of busy, happy, independent girls, who each had a purpose to execute, a talent to develop, an ambition to achieve, and brought to the work patience and perseverance, hope and courage. Here Polly found her place at once, for in this little world love and liberty prevailed; talent, energy, and character took the first rank; money, fashion, and position were literally nowhere; for here, as in the big world outside, genius seemed to blossom best when poverty was head gardener. Young teachers, doing much work for little pay; young artists, trying to pencil, paint, or carve their way to Rome; young writers, burning to distinguish themselves; young singers, dreaming of triumphs, great as those of Jenny Lind; and some who tried to conquer independence, armed only with a needle, like poor Jane.”

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. The only place I’ve encountered anything at all similar is online, where my primary communities (in the blogosphere and then on Ravelry) have been largely though not exclusively female. I like the idea, though, of a community not just of women but of women who Do Stuff.

On a completely different topic but also worth noting, I have been finishing a bunch of knitting lately – socks, minisock ornaments, a sweater – and should get some pictures up here. And I have already finished one quarter of this year’s Concept 2 Holiday CHallenge – 50 km erged since THanksgiving.