The ages have had their heartthrobs, women who marked their moment in history with the aura of the feminine against whose light even bloody warriors pale. So it has always been, and women’s lit should know it and be proud.
From the very beginning it wasn’t about Adam who by even his own press was a bit of a dolt. Chapter 1 Genesis wasn’t so much about God the absentee landlord, as it was about Eve who expressed our species’ reach so practically. There follow a long list of Eves: Ruth, Judith, Bathsheba, Helen of Troy, Mary Magdalene, Salome, Cleopatra, Elizabeth, Katherine, Lady Godiva, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Lady Gaga.
For my age “she” was Miss Kitty of Dodge City, Kan., the female friend of Marshall Dillon. Like Elizabeth I she was red-haired and wore lipstick like Nell Gwyn, the paramour of King Charles. Lipstick and makeup was once a harlot’s stock-in-trade; in fact lipstick became the cultural signal of availability if initially to cover malnourishment, disease and age.
“Gunsmoke” never quite revealed Miss Kitty’s profession; to our 20th century innocence she seemed only a bar owner with girls from upstairs available for “conversation.” For some reason in the 1950s and ’60s we bought this while we were led to believe that real men wore six guns on their hip, from which the modern ideology of the NRA was born. The six-gun manifesto of all those black-and-white westerns that demented our collective childhoods to the favor of concealed carry.