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When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
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When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  675 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
This enchanting collection of fiction, poetry, and photographs evokes the beauty, humor, and courage of women living in their later years. More than 1.7 million copies have been sold, thanks to its universal message of aging as a natural gift of life. Winner of the American Booksellers Book of the Year Honors Award (1991), and two Benjamin Franklin Awards: for design and c ...more
Hardcover, 177 pages
Published July 1st 1991 by Papier-Mache Press
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May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Fun book. I got it years ago. Smiled. Still smile.

*nb: and by now I've learned for myself why old women wear purple, it goes well with white hair
Larry Bassett
This is another one of those 20+ year old books that I seem to be reading regularly. But it has aged well and I would recommend it to all people who are old or think they may be old one day. Especially women. This one was on my parent's bookshelf that I have been raiding recently.

I love short stories and poems that I can actually understand. When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple has 60 written offerings plus some excellent photography of well weathered women.

You can get this book on GR Bo
May 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I flip through this book when I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with the world and the pace of life when I do not want to look towards any poems about consciousness or oneness with everything. It puts me in my place and reading some of the poems and short stories reminds me of who I might be one day and I take comfort in knowing I don't need to be there yet. I recommend this book and a cup of tea in the early afternoon in the winter with a heavy sweater. Mmmm. Just a little snippit at a time here an ...more
Jun 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pleasure-reading
A friend introduced this to me, and I am very grateful. The voice and beauty of this book sings for me in ways that I cannot find words for. We just "click" this book and I. We just click. I don't know what to make of the concept of the Red Hat Society that was spawned by this except to say that if it gets women riled up and living life more fully, more power to it.
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book takes it’s cue from the poem written by Jenny Joseph called Warning:

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter……” (in-part)

When I am an Old Woman is a compilation of sentiments regarding midlife and beyond. A varied semblance of authors and photographers sewn together by its Editor, Sandra Martz.

One of my favored poems in this
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
You may pick this up for the title, perhaps you have heard of the saying...... but read it for the wisdom contained within. How to grow up, with humility, grace and love.

Social Security (page 127)
By Barbara Bolz

She knows a cashier who
blushes and lets her use
food stamps to buy tulip
bulbs and rose bushes.

We smile each morning as I
pass her - her hand always
married to some stick,
or hoe, or rake.

One morning I shout,
"I'm not skinny like
you so I've gotta run
two miles each day"

She begs me closer, whisp
Edwina Callan
This book wasn't at all like I thought it would be.
I was expecting cute and witty and funny little old ladies running amok, what I got was mostly sad glimpses into the lives of women whose clocks are almost out of time.
A couple of the poems had me in tears and the story where the son-in-law is disgusted because the old woman soils herself at the kitchen table had me livid.
This is the most depressing book I've read this year.
May 26, 2008 rated it liked it
An anthology - photos, poetry, short stories and essays about being female and aged.
It's good to pick up and put down.
Una Tiers
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
These are enchanting poems read with grace and heart. I highly recommend them on tape.
Susanna Natti
Dec 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a book to read when you are a certain age and I have reached that place. I found the short stories and poems funny, disturbing, poignant and oddly comforting. Despite the feisty title, many of these entries are about the fading of vitality and the rigors of aging. In that reality, however, is where I found the comfort: the saying goes, "aging is not for sissies", and the dignity often presented in these stories are ultimately about the courage to keep living.
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
This completes the "book you haven't read since high school" category on Pop Sugar's 2016 reading challenge. I loved it 20 plus years ago but found it treacly this go around.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ideas and feelings about aging. Poems and short stories I really enjoyed. Views on getting older.
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
When I first bought this book about 20 years ago, I was in my early 30s. The opening poem was very clever:
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I never got much further than that, but assumed the rest of the book was in much the same vein. How fun it will be to be a clever old woman.
Not in this book.
Perhaps the rest of the stories
Leslie Ann
Apr 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, poetry
An important but uneven collection of stories, poetry, and photographs about aging. The title poem, which I first heard in college, is still my favorite piece, but I suspect I will have other favorites in the future.

I also liked this recipe for love from Jess Wells's story, "Two Willow Chairs":
Love is just a matter of the right recipe: a cup and a half of infatuation, a pinch of matching class status, two tablespoons of compatible politics and three generous cups of good sex. Mix. Sprinkle liber
My Original Notes (1997):

I read the poetry and short stories in this book over the course of a year. After reading the whole book, only one poem caught my attention. It's titled "Translations" by Margaret H. Carson. Other than that, I didn't really care for the book.

My Current Thoughts:

This was certainly a popular book 20 years ago! I wonder, though, if I read it too early in my life. I was only 35 years old! Far from becoming an "old woman." However, I have no desire to find a copy and read it
Len Knighton
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
DOES ANYBODY PROOFREAD BOOKS ANYMORE? I don't think I've read a book in the past two years that hasn't had at least one spelling error. In the current short story I'm reading from this book I have found 3 spelling errors. You can call them TYPOS if you want, but they are still errors. THING instead of THINK. And the word BECAUSE was misspelled twice in different ways. OK. I'm done ranting now.
Some good stories and powerful poems but not enough. Maybe when
I'm 20 years older I will appreciate them
Nov 08, 2008 added it
Recommended to Jennifer by: P.Luckman
I happened to be discussing books with a lovely lady, an assistant in an art gallery in WV. The next day, she brought me these two wonderful books. This past Saturday evening, I curled up and enjoyed this book full of prose by women of all backgrounds mainly all over 50. Short stories and poems full of hope and the beauty of aging. When she gave it to me, she said "you may be too young to really enjoy it, but it's great." I loved it...I filled two pages of my journal as it provoked many emotions ...more
Feb 14, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is a compilation of poems and short stories. Some are sad, some are funny, some are very close to home. I think the author describes it best when she is relating how she chose the stories she put in the book. "...I would read more than 600 poems and stories, selecting those that spoke to the heart, ones that brought tears, and laughter, and ones that made me think - about letting go of youth, about support systems and the adequate health care, about respect and consideration, septuagen ...more
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kathy by: Helen
Shelves: other-fiction
I'm really enjoying this collection of poems and essays told about or from the perspective of elderly women. Many are poignant in their depiction of the losses I'm realizing are an inevitable part of aging. But they also convey a sense of peace, gentle humor and (I hope) wisdom that comes in later years. The next phase of life does have its own rewards, and there is much to look forward to. It's a book best read a bit at a time since each piece stands on its own.
Carolyn F.
While I love the first poem about wearing purple with inappropriate red hats, all the other stories and poems felt so depressing. I know this is geared toward old women, but it seemed mostly about death and pain. I would have to be in a depressed mood to read it because to start out happy and then read this was too much for me. I'm passing this book on to my little sister. I'm not saying she's depressed, but maybe she'll appreciate it more than I did.
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women & those who love them as they face the passing years
Recommended to Christine by: found it at a thrift store
Shelves: anthologies, poetry
Absolutely brilliant. This is an anthology of stories & poems that will make you happy you are a woman...It paints a rich picture of women as they age - valuable for both younger readers & gerontologists. Not a book that you read from beginning to end, but one where you can capture pieces such as the series of poems, "A place for Mother" by Joanne Seltzer or the poignant story of Sitty Victoria. I shed many a tear and lots of laughs reading this collection. And go back and reread at time ...more
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My Nana recommended this book to me when I was a teenager which may color my view. That said, this book is re-visited often and I feel it is a valuable addition to any collection. It's one of those books I pick up periodically and feel my perceptions shifting with my age. Incredibly eye opening and sad and still a huge relief in my heart every time I pick it up. Crosses ages, sex, class and lifestyle boundaries...highly, highly recommend.
Marci Stone
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this book and I've had it for a long time. It's a book of poems and short stories about getting old and appreciating youth. I first read it when I was in my 20s and took it as these are the things I should be doing now so that I don't regret it when I get older. The first poem talks about how this woman didn't wear purple when she was young, but planned to wear it a lot more when she got older. It's also about doing things you want to do instead of what people expect of you.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For every woman that is 50 or older this book is a must!! There are beautiful black and white photos of older women with love, pain, happiness, sadness, , compassion, determination, courage, wisdom and strength etched in their faces. The book is a combination of short stories and poetry. The stories and poems in this book pull on your heartstrings as they depict aging in a true but wonderful way. I laughed and I cried. Awesome book that goes on my keeper shelf!
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I’ve had this since ‘91, when I/we were all 20 years younger. The title comes from the poem "Warning" which speaks to women juggling work, home and family. Eight years later, I read it to find solace and community with women dealing with aging mothers. I love it, even the inscription, "To my grandmother who gave me hope and to my mother who gave me wisdom." My mother gave me wisdom too.
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely devastating and beautiful collection of poems and short stories by and about woman who are in the last years of their lives. Best 50¢ thrift store purchase I've ever made; I'm so glad this book exists, and so pleased with the variety within its pages. Old ladies, you have it rough, but you can be amazing, and I hope to join your ranks some day.
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
The title poem of this book is inspiring. Most of the rest are also very good. I especially like the image of a woman looking for assisted living for her mother, lying that her mom can still use the restroom independently, the same way her mother had lyed that she was potty trained when looking for a preschool.
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was lovely. I was trying to read just a few poems or short stories a day, but had a hard time putting it down. I appreciate learning from others' shared experiences, especially women's, even if I'm at a different stage in life than the authors. I'm on to the 2nd edition now.
Julie Unruh
This book was funny and very eye opening, I did like the poem at the begging of the book, "When I Am An Old Women I Shall Wear Purple," and the story near the end "Making the Wine." I had wrote a story like "Making the Wine," but did not add all the things that good with how old people act.
Oct 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anthology of short stories and poems by and of the 'older woman'. Jenny Joseph's 'Warning' is an all-time favourite poem of mine so when I found this collection, I was thrilled! Good book, one that I anticipate rereading every now and then.
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Sandra Kay Martz founded Papier-Mache Press in 1984. Papier-Mache Press was known for publishing accessible books which, “presented important social issues through enduring works of beauty, grace, and strength,” and “created a bridge of understanding between the mainstream audience and those who might not otherwise be heard. As an editor and publisher, she has compiled several successful Papier-Ma ...more
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