There’s something to be said about letter writing. When tasked with spending copious amounts of time describing your feelings, whereabouts and most intrinsic thoughts, letters can be treasure troves of insight and wisdom. Unfortunately, our generation no longer takes the time to write long letters to loved ones over seas or well wishes to friends down the street. (Maybe it’s something we should bring back?)

For now, we can sift through these delicately preserved letters to find not just pearls of wisdom, similarities between the thoughts, feelings and sentiments of women living hundreds of years ago similar to our own.

It isn’t, as my family has always conspired to make me believe, that I am a neurotic who cannot stand up to life, but that I am healthy and I have been preyed on by neurotics till they have bled me nearly white. I feel better, but accursedly lonely.
– Rebecca West, from a letter to John Gunther written c. June 1926

I’m not all the perfect being you think I am. But as I am, I always was, only it’s just beginning to creep out.
– Agnes von Kurowsky, from a letter to Ernest Hemingway c. March 1921

I could no longer live with my nerves.
– Jean Seberg, from a letter to Alexandre Diego Gary c. August 1979

And it’s just as though I can feel you imprisoned inside yourself, which fills me with anguish.
– Simone de Beauvoir, from a letter to Jean-Paul Sartre c. April 1953

I know I’ll always think of you with something like hurt and nostalgia—
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Ann Davidow-Goodman written c. March 1950

The only quiet woman is a dead one.
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Aurelia Plath written c. March 1951

People are always telling me I’m tough. Maybe because I’ve survived so much.

Inside, I feel like cooked broccoli, and I don’t mean the stalks which should be crisp and tasty. I mean the heads that fall apart when you cut them.
– Anne Sexton, from a letter to Stanley Kunitz written c. February 1971

Love me more and differently from others. Don’t be angry with me. You must grow accustomed to me.
– Marina Tsvetaeva, from a letter to Rainer Maria Rilke c. December 1927

I need so to love a person – be it girl or boy, friend or enemy. And without being able to, I sort of dry up.
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Ann Davidow-Goodman c. January 1951

I am not jealous. I no longer feel any acute pain – only emptiness.
– Marina Tsvetaeva, from a letter to Anna Teskova c. March 1931

…there is true pain in not sharing with you all good and all bad.
– Anne Sexton, from a letter to Alfred Sexton written c. September 1963

You have a style to your life that I envy. You know how to take care of yourself. You know how to love yourself. I envy. You know how to reach out.
– Anne Sexton, from a letter to Alice Smith written c. December 1969

I am pretty much disgusted with human behavior most of the time.
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Edward Cohen written c. August 1950

It wasn’t because of the pain that I was silent, it was because of the ugliness of that pain.
– Marina Tsvetaeva, from a letter to Rainer Maria Rilke c. June 1926

I so often remain silent. I am like a wolf in his den hiding my grief, it’s hard on people.
– Marina Tsvetaeva, from a letter to Vera Zvagyntseva c. February 1920

The reason why I hate the idea of growing up, I guess, is subconsciously because I want to remain a child and be sheltered from accepting the responsibility of things. I also shy away from making decisions and thinking about what I’m good for – which I am convinced, isn’t much.
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Ann Davidow-Goodman c. January 1951

I almost wish I had never met you – so I wouldn’t feel so empty.
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Ann Davidow-Goodman c. January 1951

I must learn moderation in all things. You see, I am given to excess. That’s all there is to it.
– Anne Sexton, from a lettter to Dennis Farrell written c. July 1962

I sometimes wish that I had been born in some obscure corner of the world…In Iceland, perhaps, or some South Sea Island, where one could live a normal life without being part of the great insane world struggles.
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Hans-Joachim Neupert c. November 1951

Above all, I’m sad, because it is always the same…Everything hopelessly the same. And rebellion. And a desire to run away from it all to some real human love.
– Anaïs Nin, in a letter to Henry Miller

I am so happy you are proud of me, although I don’t know what for.
I am just surviving.
— Martha Gellhorn, from a letter to Ernest Hemingway c. July 1941

But there are so many things which disturb me. I can’t just sit back and take them calmly. I must cry out against them. And I take advantage of your patience by doing so.
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Hans-Joachim Neupert c. January 1950

I feel confident I should make my own life – and you have always made yours.
– Vivien Leigh, from a letter to Laurence Olivier written c. November 1958

I’m so pathetically intense. I just can’t be any other way. You know; you understand. And get this, I’m with you. Don’t stop talking to me, please. It’s as important as if we were the only people alive.
– Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Edward Cohen written c. September 1950

You put me in touch with my own soul.
– Katherine Mansfield, from a letter to Virginia Woolf written c. March 1921

Lauren Martin
Just another girl in the world...and founder of Words of Women

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