The Woman Who Did

Read by Ruth Golding

(4.5 stars; 47 reviews)

Most times, especially in the time when this book was written (1895), it is just as nature and society would wish: a man and woman "fall in love" and get married. But it is not so for Herminia Barton and Alan Merrick. They do indeed fall in love, but Herminia has a deeply held belief in freedom for women, and she holds immutable views against what she perceives as the slavery of marriage.

Alan unwillingly agrees to her strong wish to remain unmarried and to live together as "close and dear friends". When the birth of their child is imminent, they go to his beloved Italy to avoid the condemnation of English society.

From this point on, many questions are raised: is marriage indeed so important? Is strong will always good? Is it right to go against society? And if it is, when should we stop and consider the effects on other people? What should a child do when she is raised to be what her mother dreams and develops her own dreams in the process? And, finally, how much should parents sacrifice for their children? (Summary by Stav Nisser and Ruth Golding) (6 hr 1 min)


Chapter I 20:52 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter II 12:31 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter III 37:37 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter IV 12:58 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter V 22:48 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter VI 14:57 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter VII 17:22 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter VIII 13:09 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter IX 18:30 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter X 14:48 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XI 13:34 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XII 16:18 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XIII 17:33 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XIV 10:00 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XV 16:11 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XVI 15:10 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XVII 14:13 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XVIII 16:36 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XIX 15:56 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XX 7:55 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XXI 12:38 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XXII 8:29 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XXIII 4:00 Read by Ruth Golding
Chapter XXIV 7:09 Read by Ruth Golding


Very convincingly human story and strong feminist message

(4.5 stars)

Although it does get a bit preachy, such concepts were ground-breaking at the time, so there are thorough (and repeated?) explanations of the author's philosophy. This book has certainly made me feel so grateful for what I've been afforded as a 21st century woman. I can live with a man before (or instead of) getting married, if I choose. I can take as long as I like to choose a life partner, or go without. My standing in society does not depend on my marital status. My life path is my own, my goods are my own,and I can choose to demand that my life partner and I are together on the basis of equality. A thousand thanks to the truly-called martyrs (this book is the joyful and painful story of one such, albeit fictional) who paved our way and suffered so that you and I have such freedoms. <P>The book is well written and very well read. The reader puts passion and vehemence where the author seemed to intend it. Read with understanding and conviction, which helps the listener comprehend and empathize.

(4.5 stars)

Yes It made an interesting point and a very daring one, I am sure, for its time. Well read as usual by Ruth.

My new favorite book

(5 stars)

Excellent story and reading. Loved it.

(5 stars)

“The Woman Who Did” is excellently read by Golding on LibriVox! Mind you, this is a coyly unfolding tragedy, written in the tradition of realists (1850s-1900s). Ergo, the reader comes away with the sense of having unwittingly cozied up to the prickly world inhabited by Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, and George Elliott’s “Mill on the Floss”. In point of fact, the author cleverly weaves in his own stern judgment of fellow writer Elliott throughout: Allen’s Heroine alludes to Elliott as a strong female writer who failed to convey in her writing the ideals of independent thought and free association by which she herself lived. Thus doing, Allen leads the hapless reader to believe that he wishes to deviate, to show his peers the error of their ways. We get the idea that the writer intends to counter harm caused by colleagues who depict the social mores of the time through the suffering of the flawed female archetypes (“the stoic, socially defiant antiheroine”). However, Allen’s heroine is not spared the inevitability of societal retribution than are other tragic figures who inhabit tragedy as a genre. Notwithstanding, one must give credit to Allen’s writing over some of his contemporaries in the genre. To the last sentence, Allen succeeds in buoying the unsuspecting reader with well sprinkled grains of hope. As a result of carefully balanced sense of agency and setbacks experienced by the heroine through much of the book, the story unfolds with none of the doom, gloom, and dark foreboding that sets in remarkably early in the struggles experienced by tragic female archetypes such as Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. In Allen’s hands, hope as a literally device is expertly wielded to fool even the most squeamish reader; making for unputdownable reading. We race to the finish, cheering on our brave heroine; anticipating a triumph at any moment. We identify with this woman who is ahead of even our own time. She who dares refuse excellent marriage offers to men she loves and who love her. She who makes reasoned choices with intelligence, nobility, goodness, and tenacin the face of tyrannical Victorian sensibilities! Stunned by the last short sentence, the reader scans for an epilogue. There is none. Disbelieving and at a loss as to where to place the fragile hope still throbbing in hand, the reader’s takeaway is this: little have we progressed in more than 100 years. Thinking thus, we come to an acceptance that we are faced with the wreckage wrought by the realist’s swift delivery of his mission. The author has succeeded after all: captured and presented before us is a picture of life endured in willfully cruel deprivation and needless psychosocial isolation. These then the inevitable outcomes for any who openly challenge authority where societal values are centered on masculine power & economic opportunity. Needing closure, the reader cannot help but indulge in sense-making in a senseless world. Thoughts turn to the latent situational irony of the Victorian era. How is it, wonders the reader, that the long reigning Queen Victoria did so little to ease social tyranny for her own gender, when her writing is so poignant in it’s depiction of her own battle of the sexes? This being a paradox not overtly examined by Allen and other novelists of the time, the reader finds no immediate relief from the cold, hard glare of the writer’s harsh judgement on his heroine. Nonetheless, as the book is well written and beautifully read by Golding on LibriVox, one has been spurred on; nay, compelled; to finish. Having done so, one must now simply learn to live with the unwelcome disquiet brought on by Allen’s themes. This reader thus recommends the novel to that fellow sojourner who enjoys a coyly unfolding tragedy, of which this reader most definitely is not!

The second listen...

(5 stars)

...and I’ve a much greater appreciation for the book and especially the narrator. The narration is so very flawless that it absolutely could not be done in such depth by any other narrator. Thank you Ruth and thank you LibriVox. Btw, I believe Ms Golding sang "Oh Thou Man" in Under the Greenwood Tree, Chapter 5, by Thomas Hardy. Most excellent!

Well Read, Intelligent, But, Ultimately Very Depressing

(3 stars)

As a mother, the last part of the story just cut too close to the quick, and rather wrecked the whole thing, for me.

(5 stars)

She was just born 80 to 90 years before her time. A very moving thought provoking, and sad story. But well worth a listen to, read so nicely by Ruth Goulding

(5 stars)

Very interesting to hear these early theories. Beautifully read. I have to say, though, how I love having my nature so cIearly defined, according to gender, by a male author. (lmao)