U: Brenda Ueland: A Unique Woman
Brenda Ueland was a unique and progressive woman that is an inspiration to us many years after her death. Although born in 1891, a year when women didn’t have many rights, Brenda was said to have lived her life by two rules: To tell the truth, and to not do anything she didn’t want to.
Brenda’s father, an immigrant from Norway, was a prominent lawyer and judge. Her suffragette mother was the first president of the Minnesota League of Women Voters.
Ueland published two books during her life. The first was If You Want to Write: a Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, first published in 1938. In this book, she shares her philosophies on writing and life in general. She stresses the idea that “Everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say.” Drawing heavily on the work and influence of William Blake, she suggests that writers should “Try to discover your true, honest, un-theoretical self.” She sums up her book with 12 points to keep in mind while writing. Carl Sandburg called If You Want to Write “the best book ever written on how to write.” It was republished in 1983 by the Schubert Club of St. Paul, Minnesota, and then picked up by Graywolf Press, for which it remains their bestselling title.
In her later years, Brenda was an advocate for animal welfare. She worked with Pet Haven, a no-kill animal shelter in Minnesota. She was physically active well into her later years and regularly walked up to nine miles a day. An accomplished swimmer, she set an international swimming record for people over eighty years old.