Editor’s Page

Fall 2014

Dear Readers,

The summer was shaken by so many horrifying political events: Gaza, Ebola, Ferguson, Staten Island, ISIS. Still, I have chosen to write instead about some of the glittering women we have lost. No justification, only a small apology.

Elaine Stritch, Bel Kaufman, Lauren Bacall, all gone. Glamorous women with great legs, dancing – or marching – through life in high heels.

High heels? The women’s movement changed that for me: no more girdles, no merry widows under cocktail dresses, no more stockings or garter belts, and definitely no more high heels. In my teens and twenties, I bought what I thought were elegant shoes with pointed toes and three-inch heels for all but the most casual occasions. I bought cowboy boots so tight I could hardly wait to climb on the horse so I didn’t have to walk another minute. And ice skates so uncomfortable, I quit skating. Feminism brought liberation.


Still, I cannot help admiring these strong, feisty, often acerbic women for their energy, their self possession, their pizzazz. They had great politics (well, I’m not sure about Stritch) and fabulous legs. Perhaps it is time for me to concede that dancing should be celebrated. As Margo Berdeshevsky said in Persimmon Tree on the death of her beloved Bel, “Let her be dancing the tango, her high backward kicks, all the way through the tunnels of light.”

Emma Goldman, perhaps calling attention to the joy she found in anarchism, said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” So here’s to ladies who lunch, who teach, who dance, who march. Join the revolution and keep dancing … with or without high heels.

Sue Leonard
For 45 years, Sue Leonard taught every variety of history except American mostly at independent high schools for girls — with a brief stint in a poverty program school for pregnant teens in Bedford Stuyvesant. In the mid-nineties she and her late husband John Leonard were co-editors of the Books and Arts section of the Nation Magazine. Since retiring, Sue has filled up her days with reading, needlework, family, friends and long walks.

7 thoughts on “Editor’s Page

  1. Christine Jordan

    I have just this day been introduced to Persimmon Tree by a younger writer friend of mine, and I am so pleased. Now to the dancing part. All I ever wanted to do was ‘be a dancer’ starting at age 4. I chose the University of CA Irvine over Mills College (oh my!) and did go on to dance modern, some musical theatre and most importantly, to tap dance. I am very serious about this dance form, as serious as a 64 year old ex-dancer can be I guess. But when I lace up my scuffed tap shoes, try to keep time to the rhythms my (older) tap teacher gives to us, there is no thought of age. Dance is real to me as well as a metaphor. To dance through life has been my great privilege. Thank you for this magazine and your wonderful editorial!
    p.s. I also was a fashion model and truly wonder how I ever stayed aloft on the high heels we sported!

  2. Maria Lambert

    It’s curious that you all are talking about high heels and dancing. Today I received a text message from my sisters in Mexico asking me if I wanted to join a dance club. We would dress up and dance to “marimba sones” like we used to when we were growing up. Our elementary school celebrated patriotic festivities and events with “bailables.” There were so many “bailables” and parties in our small town, it seems to me that I spent my first 29 years bailando. I began wearing high heels at the age of fifteen, when the “Italian tips stilettos” were in vogue. High heels were my weakness until I became sixty and could not longer walk on them. Even now at the age of sixty three still wear small heels and nostalgically go window shopping thinking not of my age and pains, but wishing to buy something extravagant and sexy, but all I can do is trying them on and walk around for a minute or two and forget it. It has been difficult to admit that I am no longer young since in my heart I still feel thirty five. And although my body reminds me of what I want to forget, I will join the dance club and shall dance with my sisters.

  3. Jan Harwood

    a poem on the subject:
    she’s old and she’s free
    eats what she wants
    when she wants
    sleeps from 3 to 10 or whenever
    the cats get hungry
    wears pajamas all day
    sweats and jeans in bed
    flushes once a day even if
    she’s not embarrassed
    reads a book all day and all night
    if it’s that good
    makes the bed
    cooks from scratch
    watches tv
    wears a watch
    or bra
    or pantyhose
    stops dancin’

    1. Lilith Rogers

      Sounds an awful lot like my life these days–esp. cold rainy days like this one has been. Only got out of bed to forage in the frig and do necessary business in the bathroom.

      Awww–ain’t old age great?!!!!! Oh, and never did wear high heels—too scary.

      Happy Solstice soon,


  4. Elise Kazanjian

    I too gave up really, really high heels but have kept one pair of lattice front,
    sort of Grecian sandal style, with 2 inch heels. I love them as my blue toe nail
    polish shows through, and that polish always makes me feel like I’m wearing
    the sky on my feet. I also like that shade of blue — it jolts some of the
    12-year olds behind counters, some of whom think that when you are almost
    80 years old, you are required to fall off the edge of the earth. I say pick the
    shoes that make you feel good, are comfortable, and make your feet dance.

  5. Laura Tamakoshi

    I love that you are celebrating great women with great legs who danced, and may be dancing still just beyond our vision. I once taught at a university in Papua New Guinea where everyone danced even when it was hotter than hades, and then I worked at a place (unnamed) in the USA where people seemed not to dance very much and to be more restrained than I was wont to do. I thrived in both places but loved and remember best the first place for its dancing along with everything else. Yes, let’s dance!


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