My Archival Wanderings: Eudora Welty

Hi Writers,
Welcome to my month-long journey through the WD archives, in which I’m posting (almost) daily offerings from the history of our magazine. There’s no rhyme or reason to my choices.

As one loyal reader pointed out, there’s been a lack of female voices so far. And sadly, my wanderings have led me to conclude there was a lack of attention given to women writers up until the ‘70s in the magazine—a sign of the times, I suppose. 

Ironically, I was able to find a wonderful essay by Eudora Welty, published in the February 1970 issue of Writer’s Digest, entitled “Must the Novelist Crusade?” It’s about the writer’s social responsibility, especially in regards to writing about racism and other forms of prejudice.

Here’s a short but entirely lovely excerpt to ponder:

And so finally I think we need to write with love. Not in self-defense, not in hate, not in the mood of instruction, not in rebuttal, in any kind of militance, or in apology, but with love. Not in exorcisement, either, for this is to make the reader bear a thing for you.
    Neither do I speak of writing forgivingly; out of love you can write with straight fury. It is the source of the understanding that I speak of; it’s this that determines its nature and its reach.

What do you think? Should writers be social crusaders?
Keep Writing,

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9 thoughts on “My Archival Wanderings: Eudora Welty

  1. Dorraine Darden

    Anytime you infuse love with passion and capture it on paper, the result is electric magic. People need their hearts jolted from time to time. The best and most memorable writing can and does do this without meaning to. Readers lucky enough to stumble onto stories like these sneak away with a chunk of the writers heart. They usually know it too. A thought or idea lain dormant or never fired in the first place rises like cream in their conscience. They run away with a brighter way to be in the world. Writer’s as Social crusaders? Yes! But we certainly don’t plan it that way. That is the beauty and straight fury of electric magic.

  2. Deborah

    "Everyone" says we should write what we know, and I agree wholeheartedly. But when you write what you know, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, there’s going to be a lot of emotion in it — and not just love. Without passion, writing is flat. With passion, there are all sorts of emotions that will come through, but that’s what makes an article, a short story, or a novel come to life for the reader.

  3. Dulcie

    I think woman writers run the gamut based upon the words and language they were taught to use dependent upon the era of which they were born and whether they dared to break the mold. Not just the mold of social graces and attitudes but of how they spoke and acted within them. Sadly we have seen many woman put in a place but it is important that without the rule breakers who may have not been so "gentle" we have to write our feelings and stories with more truth and live them as well.

    Currently in my blog I get many applauses sent to me in gratitude for not apologizing or softening the effects of my disease and the cruelty the world has left me with despite my great accomplishments in life when compared to my fore-mothers. They like my shoot from the hip attitude and clarity of the pain I go through while maintaining a positive and hopeful attitude for a better future for all chronicaly ill as well as myself. Always looking for something to inspire others and myself I find not being "gentle" at times helps. I will admit there are parts that are considered "gentle" but they are usually when I speak of someone who is supportive and full of love and inspiration.

    We can only fight some battles with words our grandmothers and great grandmothers would never use. But the "gentleness does come out when there is hope. So with that, I can not argue because when there is hope; how can we not feel warm and gentle to ourselves and others.

    Women writers will always find a gentleness in their stories real or made up since we are trained to be the kinder sex even at times of feminism we stand up for each other and do not stop caring for the greater good. I know many would argue with this but it is a lesson we have learned and overcome in times when our grandmothers were fight very different wars.

  4. sue viders

    Hi…sorry to have to contact you this way, but I have tried, three times to reach you through the editorial e-mail address and no one has ever acknowledge my request…sigh…I know, you are all very busy… but here’s what I want to ask…and it’s a simple question.

    I have a new card game for writers, based on my best selling book, HEROES AND HEROINES, SIXTEEN MASTER ARCHETYPES…and I would like to send you a review copy.

    Is this possible? Sue

  5. Kristan C.

    Agreed with babs. I think the key word here is also ‘gently’. Much of my own personal fiction is on the light side, because I also believe in the value and worth of sheer entertainment–but if there’s nothing to be gained in the end, then what is the point of the writing? Simply to make money? ~laughs heartily~

  6. babs mountjoy

    Absolutely! Every time we write we have an opportunity to instruct, sometimes very gently. Humans often absorb lessons, even without knowing it sometimes, through the written word. I’ve done this in most manuscripts I’ve written, as well as in my blog, where I share facets of my life applicable to a much wider proportion of the population. When I hear back from someone that they’ve been touched by my words, I know I’ve done my "job."

  7. Marjorie Kildare

    In "One Writer’s Beginnings" Eudora Welty says she came of a sheltered life, but that "a sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within."

    Lucky for Welty and the few women who come from sheltered lives. Most women don’t. And unlike Mary Hemingway, men don’t forfeit their lives for women. That’s why, out of love for womankind, many women writers are social crusaders – whether they call themselves so – who "write with straight fury" producing clarity rarely found elsewhere.

    Tillie Olsen’s 1978 book, "Silences" and decades of WD archives prove the shaping power and inequality of circumstance.

    Grateful many are for Tillie Olsen’s tribute: "For our silenced people, century after century their beings consumed in the hard, everyday essential work of maintaining human life. Their art, which still they made – as their other contributions – anonymous; refused respect, recognition; lost.
    For those of us (few yet in number, for the way is punishing), their kin and descendants, who begin to emerge into more flowered and rewarded use of our selves in ways denied to them; – and by our very achievement bearing witness to what was (and still is) being lost, silenced."

    WD is a perfect place to bear witness to women’s work.