A certain heart-themed, couple-centered so-called holiday is coming up next week, and this bitter old gal is officially over it! Women don’t need to be paired off (especially not with men) to live happy, satisfying, fulfilled, and fascinating lives. So let’s celebrate all the sisters who are doing it for ourselves!
Kendra gave a list of her favorite frock flick spinsters, and now I’m putting my spin on the general topic. I’m aiming for fewer of the “old ladies who never got married” and more of the “women who had better things to do” than pair up.
What’s the most obvious job for a single lady in frock flicks? Governess. But the classic Brontë governesses used that as a stepping stone to marriage. Well, practically perfect Julie Andrews flips that script in Mary Poppins (1964) because this nanny takes care of the kiddos and doesn’t give a fig about romance. Mary’s buddy Burt proclaims his love on their jolly holiday, but she politely rebuffs him and his dancing penguins. She might adore men individually, but I suspect she agrees that as a group they’re rather stupid.
Historically, women didn’t have a ton of options for joining a military group, and if they did, they’d have to be single, since patriarchal partnerships and child-rearing don’t align with this lifestyle. Even in the all-female warrior tribe of The Woman King (2022), Nanisca stands out as a smart badass. She’s seen some things and made choices to get where she is. Viola Davis‘ performance is iconic as a single woman who has build a community of strong, joyous, and interdependent women.
Ah, the reclusive poet! Because even before Virginia Woolf wrote about it, women knew that getting a room of one’s own to create art was required. Emily did have friendships and possibly a romantic relationship with her sister-in-law — which is shown in Wild Nights With Emily (2019) and Dickinson (2019-21). But she seemed destined for a single life, as much as possible in her family home, while pursuing A Quite Passion (2017).
Now for a single lady who’s anything but a spinster or a recluse! The Honourable Phryne Fisher is, of course, the lady detective who solves crimes in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012-15) and Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020). But she also takes and leaves lovers as easily as she changes elegant hats. She has no interest in marriage, but she’s created a family of choice with her companion Dot (who marries at the end of the series) and her ward Jane (Phryne has two adopted daughters in the books the TV show is based on). She has no shortage of friends and associates, she just doesn’t need to shack up with any of them.
This fictional character was actually the first I thought of for a top five single ladies in frock flicks, even though the movie Dreamgirls (2006) skirts our historical time period since it starts in 1962 but ends in 1975. Because Jennifer Hudson is fucking ON FIRE in this role and really goes the gamut from wanting to be with a man to ditching his sorry ass. Her song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is all about how much she won’t let her lover go, and yet … she does. She has to. She survives on her own, goddamnit. With her child. She is not beat down, she overcomes and comes back. It’s a glorious redemption built entirely on Effie’s own talent and determination, which she had all along, and learned to depend on when that stupid man was out of the picture.
Are you a righteous single woman too? What historical or fictional single women do you admire?