"The Little Locksmith", by Katharine Butler Hathaway.

Dear Ones –

Please read this luminous, intelligent memoir by a forgotten genius of a woman. Originally published in 1943, this remarkable work of spiritual, emotional and artistic exploration has come into print again recently, thanks to the good folks at The Feminist Press.

My friend, the writer Darcey Steinke, recommended it to me, and I have fallen in love with every page.

Katharine Butler Hathaway was born in 1890 to an affluent Massachusetts family. She was afflicted with tuberculosis of the spine as a child, and spent her entire childhood confined to her bedroom, pinned down to a board (with her head and neck held in place by weights.) It was the hope of her doctors that this restriction would cause her spine to grow straight. But the treatment didn't work, and she was left both stunted and hunchbacked, never growing past the height of a ten year old child.

But what did happen in those isolated years of stillness and restriction was the evolution of a most extraordinary mind and imagination. Staggeringly, Hathaway tells the tale here of a happy childhood — one rich with limitless invention. Later, when she leaves her small room and enters the world, she suffers humiliation and isolation, but in the middle of her life she embarks on a brave and fantastic story: She buys a giant house, and (despite the approbation of her family and community) moves into it alone, in order to become an autonomous artist at last.

And I must tell you — the story of this woman buying her own sanctuary reads like one of the great adventure stories of all time.

I highlighted dozens of sections of this book, but here is the phrase that moved me the most, when Hathaway discusses her decision to move away from home (and from the care of her mother and nurses) in order to live alone:

"I discovered that my decision was only a question of whether I preferred to be governed by fear or by a creative feeling, and although I was very frightened, I knew I could not choose fear. The panic terrors that came in the night might scare me half to death, but I would never let them decide things for me. Then and there I invented this rule for myself to be applied to every decision I might have to make in the future. I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear, and which to creativeness, and other things being equal, I would make the decisions which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side. I think it must be a rule something like this that makes jonquils and crocuses come pushing through cold mud."

Oh, friends. I would love to buy this book for you, but I can't figure out how to buy it for everyone, so all I can do is implore you to get it for yourself.

And to always, always, always choose creativity over fear.


The Little Locksmith
The Little Locksmith, Katharine Butler Hathaway's luminous memoir of disability, faith, and transformation, is a critically acclaimed but…

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