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Alice James
(August 7, 1848 - March 6, 1892) U.S.A.

Alice James



Sister of philosopher William and novelist Henry, Alice James lived a largely confined and isolated life. She was reared, like her four brothers, to find her own values without neighborhood, school, or church affiliation.

The youngest of five children, she never married and lived with her parents until their deaths. Although her four brothers were broadly educated in the US and Europe, Alice's education was haphazard, reflecting her father's belief that "The very virtue of woman... disqualifies her for all didactic dignity. Learning and wisdom do not become her."

From the age 16 suffered recurrent psychosomatic sickness that were capped by a severe depression during the last 14 years of her life. Alice suffered several mental and physical breakdowns, which have been connected to her enforced inactivity and lack of intellectual stimulation, eventually being diagnosed with "female hysteria."

Keenly self-aware, she started a journal in 1889, as a way of recording her own understanding of herself. She entrusted it to her friend Katherine Loring, shortly before her death. Loring sent copies to her brother Henry and other family members.

In 1943 it was published, in incomplete form, by a niece, who called it Alice James: Her Brothers — Her Journal, marked by perceptive observation and psychological understanding. Not until 1964 was the journal published in its entirety.

James welcomed her death from breast cancer as a relief from a life she had found difficult to cope with. Alice James has since become somewhat of a feminist icon, in recognition of her struggle for self-expression within the repressive Victorian notion of femininity.


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