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Gender Roles

Sofia Tolstoy, at 19, after the first of their thirteen children:

I am left alone morning, afternoon and night. I am to gratify his pleasure and nurse his child, I am a piece of household furniture. I am a woman. I try to suppress all human feelings. When the machine is working properly it heats the milk, knits a blanket, makes little requests and bustles about trying not to think — and life is tolerable. But the moment I am alone and allow myself to think, everything seems insufferable.

At 25:

I am so often alone with my thoughts that the need to write in my diary comes quite naturally […] Now I am well again and not pregnant — it terrifies me how often I have been in that condition. He said that for him being young meant “I can achieve anything.” For me […] reason tells me that there is nothing I either want or can do beyond nursing, eating, drinking, sleeping, and loving and caring for my husband and babies, all of which I know is happiness of a kind, but why do I feel so woeful all the time, and weep as I did yesterday? I am writing this now with the pleasantly exciting sense that nobody will ever read it, so I can be quite frank with myself […].

And:

I have served a genius for almost forty years. Hundreds of times I have felt my intellectual energy stir within me and all sorts of desires - a longing for education, a love of music and the art. And time and again I have crushed and smothered these longings. Everyone asks, “But why should a worthless woman like you need an intellectual or artistic life?” To this question I can only reply: “I don’t know, but eternally suppressing it to serve a genius is a great misfortune.”

Here’s more about her life and her diaries.