Change Your World-NOT your Body

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Doing a different Doing Woman Different: Rose Williams

Rose Williams 1909-1996
Rose Williams was the slightly older sister and later muse to the great American playwright Tennessee Williams.

When Virginia Woolf imagined (1927/8) to herself what would have happened if Shakespeare had a sister (Judith) as equally gifted as he, the Williams family couldnt have imagined their first two children would play out Woolf's supposition to a near perfect tee.

Rose and Tom (three years her jr) were said to be as close as twins are often perceived. Part of that closeness may have been in reaction to their father who was violent when he drank, which was often and their mother the stereotype of the aging southern belle still full of the southern/Victorian proprieties she abused her daughter with. Both Rose and Tom were highly sensitive, introspective, intelligent and imaginative. Because Rose didnt go on to be the star her brother would later become, her biographical information isnt as detailed.

What we do know is puberty was difficult for both Rose and Tom. Tom, due to his budding homosexuality and Rose for her female sexuality which was forbidden by her genteel/prudish mother/society. Tom escaped into writing and dreams of being a writer while Rose was subjected to the dutiful good girl daughter role for which there seemed no escape. Somewhere between her being standoffish toward interested boys, laughing out loud (unrefined), hunching her shoulders inward hiding her breast and the perceived 'hysteria' from her unladylike spiritedness, Rose's mother sent her away to school in Vicksburg in 1925.
Around age 18, Rose suffered from stomach issues which became increasingly worse after not garnering marriage proposals or employment. She was later diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having a fear of sex. Tom went on to college and working on various writing works. Rose remained at home, subject to the ongoing fights between her parents and her mother's constant disapproval. In her mid twenties Rose was sent to a state mental hospital and diagnosed with Dementia Precox (Schizophrenia).

On a home visit Rose accused her father of sexual abuse/rape and spewed obscenities at her mother. Both parent forced her back to the hospital, said she was hysterical and her mother demanded the doctors to "Do anything, anything to shut her up!" Rose's mother signed papers for her to be the recipient of the new cure for various mental illnesses-a bilateral prefrontal lobotomy in 1943 behind her son's back.
For all intents and purposes while Rose would exist another 53 years in a mental hospital, she stopped living the second her mind was hacked to pieces. The following year Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie based on Rose would launch his writing career for decades to come.

There have and remains dire consequences for doing woman different. Doing woman different means risking the pathologizing of your natural behaviour/actions and desired potentials for your sex. It has gotten hundreds of thousands of women committed to mental asylums where they receive a lifetime of horrors in the form of insulin shock, electric shock, torture, brain mutilation and an execution of mind altering drugs for which there is no escape. Psychiatry has changed little since its inception several hundred years ago. A discipline created to first qualify and then modify any behaviour the culture of the day deems abnormal/unnatural by any means possible. As it was created by men and used for men, women were and are its primary targets.

The truly amazing thing is, some women have the bravery, tenacity, genius, talent and above all LUCK to do women different and succeed in their field. Women who have been featured here in just these posts. But the reality is, far more women, like Rose Williams who did woman too different, are lost forever.

I dedicate this post to all the women who were/are pathologized for doing woman different. Who fight and fought like hell against the diagnosis subjectively stamped on their life with permanent ink, till life was stamped out of them. There is no metal for bravery for those unarmed women who did/do woman different, when their difference was normal ONLY to them. But there should.




  1. This post reminded me of Alice James, sister of William and Henry James. She wasn't as horrendously abused as Williams, but her being a brilliant woman was a "problem" in that family and society.

  2. She wasn't 3 years older, she was only 16 months (1 year) when he was born! She was born (November 19, 1909) and died (September 5, 1996) on a Thursday in a month with a Friday the 13th, and since he was born March 26, 1911 and died February 25, 1983, she outlived him by about 16 years.

  3. She wasn't 3 years older, she was only 16 months (1 year) when he was born! She was born (November 19, 1909) and died (September 5, 1996) on a Thursday in a month with a Friday the 13th, and since he was born March 26, 1911 and died February 25, 1983, she still outlived him by about 15 years, as I wasn't even born when he died but was in junior high when she did, according to what I just read.

  4. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the "transgendering" of children which sometimes involves sterilization through GnRH agonists and hormones will go the way of lobotomies. What makes us so sure that we are so superior to past generations?

    Well meaning parents were eager to "cure" their children through barbaric lobotomies.


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