Essay: Natural Woman For Poetry Foundation
For Poetry Foundation, I wrote about Anne Brigman, one of the first women photographers, probably the first to photograph herself in the nude. A fascinating person whose unique worldview was also captured in her poetry.
On June 8, 1913, the San Francisco Call asked Brigman—by then a local celebrity—when she would divorce her husband, with whom she hadn’t lived for three years. Her reply was that she saw no need for divorce. She had “absolute freedom” and felt “unhampered now that I have no fear.” She continued:
Fear is the great chain which binds women and prevents their development, and fear is the one apparently big thing which has no real foundation in life. Cast fear out of the lives of women and they can and will take their place […] as the absolute equal of man.
Brigman enjoyed the bohemian life of a “New Woman,” a 19th-century term coined by the English novelist Charles Reade to describe an independent woman. She was a successful artist living by herself in Oakland, with thriving plants, a dozen birds, and a little dog named Rory. An active member of the Bay Area’s burgeoning art scene, Brigman was friends with author Jack London, artist William Keith, and poet Charles Keeler. “To her friends, poets and artists and patrons she keeps open house, and Rory barks welcome,” reported the San Francisco Call.