A woman in her late 50s whom I worked with a long time ago was forced to leave for being ‘near retirement age’. Before she left she told me to ‘never grow old’. The fear of becoming an older woman is something that I carried within me for a long time as a result. It doesn’t help that memes such as the image of a Crone is often used rather unkindly to depict us.

Age comes to the best and worst of us without exception. When it was my time to morph into an older woman, I discovered for myself how the female ageing process is shrouded in stigma and embarrassment. My personal experience has acted as a strong catalyst for this blog.

It doesn’t help that stories of older women in the press being replaced, whether in the work place or in relationships, by younger females is manifold. It is as if there is a sell by date on us and, much like old cars or white goods, need to be shunted into the graveyard of the disposed to make way for newer versions.

What about the wisdom that we have gathered? What about the contributions which we have made to society? Do none of these count?

Yes, our stories count and, what is more, our stories need to be told with pride and passion. For this reason I am delighted to be a part of a festival celebrating the older women.

The No Silence Please: The Crone Spoken Library will enable the voices of older woman to be heard in person via the format of a ‘human library’.

What is a Human Library and how does it work?

The Crone Spoken Library draws on the Danish personal conversation approach of The Human Library. Under the Human Library (HL) initiative, a ‘book’ is an individual who volunteers to represent a stigmatised group using their personal experiences to answer questions from ‘readers’.

A Human Library differs from a traditional library in that rather than taking out a paper book to read, the reader gets matched up with the actual human being behind the book title and has a face-to-face dialogue with them about that person’s topic.

An example of a topic within a Human Library is ‘Wheelchair User’ and the book, Daniel Lee, is helping to provide readers with the perspective of a man, who sees his wheelchair as anything but a limitation. The approach has been shown to challenge stereotypes and better understand diversity through the invitation to ‘unjudge’ someone.

What is the Crone Spoken Library?

The Crone Spoken Library differs from the HL as it has a centralised theme, ‘Older Women’, and it uses the language of ‘stories’. Hosted in the spiegeltent at the Festival of the Mind, the aim is to provide a special space for women to share their stories of ageing with readers from new generations. The Crone Spoken Library also offers book covers before the event, for readers to browse, and aims to record stories and publish them digitally following the event.

Nevertheless, the central goals of the Crone Spoken Library echo those of the Human Library: to offer a room for conversation, where taboo topics can be discussed openly and without prejudice. Moving forward, the respective organisers of this initiative and Human Library are very keen to explore ways of working more closely in running library events that involve people as books, ensuring that safety is maintained, and impact is maximised.

The Midlife Crisis Book

I am delighted to say that I will be a Crone Spoken Library Book talking about the midlife crisis and giving it a ring of truth with all the respect which it deserves.

Is it time to reclaim the Crone as a badge of honour? YES.

Do make yourself known if you do visit the event.