Spinsters of Fame

“It’s like the riddle of the Sphinx… why are there so many great unmarried women, and no great unmarried men?” 
– Carrie Bradshaw (alias Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex in the City) –

Very short list. (All additions greeted with gratitude).

Fictional Spinsters:

Jane Marple, clever old maid by Agatha Christie
Anne Elliot, spinster of 28 years old, in Persuation by Jane Austen
Bridget Jones by Helen Fielding
Doña Rosita la soltera, a play by Federico García Lorca
Aunt Gertrude, The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon

Authors and Artists: 

Austen, Jane
Alcott, Louisa May
Bonheur, Rosa (French artist)
Botter, Beatrix (Married only at the age of 47 – slightly questionable here)
Brönte Sisters (Anne and Emily – Charlotte was married)
Dickinson, Emily
Stark, Freya (British travel writer in Orient, 1893-1993)


Addams, (Laura) Jane (Nobel Peace Price winner)
Agnesi, Maria Gaetana (Italian mathematician & philanthropist, 18th century)
Agpar, Virginia (physician &  researcher): “I haven’t found a man who can cook.”
Bell, Gertrude (British traveller, spy and writer)
Blackwell, Elizabeth (first female physician of modern era, 19th century)  
Borden, Lizzie (American murderess, 19th century)
Elisabeth I, Queen of England
Germain, Marie-Sophie (18th century French mathematician)
Garbo, Greta
Gish, Lilian
Herschel, Caroline (19th century astronomer, first woman to discover a comet)
Hypatia of Alexandria (ancient Greek or Egyptian scholar from 4th century AD)
Joan of Arc
Keller, Helen
Leavitt, Henrietta Swan (deaf astronomer)
McClintock, Barbara (Nobelist in Medicine)
Nightingale, Florence
Piscopia, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro (mathematician, first woman with doctoral degree)
Tatin, Stéphanie (Cook and Inventor of “Tarte (des demoiselles) Tatin”)

Also famous Vestal Virgins of Ancient Rome, who had powerful and wealthy position were unmarried.

Notable Nuns (never married):

Becket, Wendy (art historian, consecrated virgin)
Catherine of Sienna
Deckers, Jeannine (The Singing Nun)
Hildegard of Bingen
Mother Teresa
Stein, Edith (philosopher)
Teresa of Ávila
Zoebelein, Judith (“websister“, behind the Vatican website)

Modern Notable Single Never Married Women:

Haprer Lee, Nelle (American author)
Goodaal, Jane (primatologist and anthropologist)
Keaton, Diane (respected actress)
Rise, Condolezza (US Secretary of State)
Wasserstein, Wendy (feminist and author)

Would not fill Spinster criterion:

Hepburn, Katherine (divorced, married 1928-1942)
Goldman, Emma (got married 1887)
Evans, Mary alias George Eliot (lived in the marriage like relationship and was not married only because he was already married and not able to divorce – for this cannot be considered spinster – and further more she was later married with another man).
Oprah (in steady long term relationship and engaged since 1992; hardly single)

[Also openly lesbian women and courtesans are in this list not considered spinsters, because they had another kind of relationship and cannot be defined singles. Including them in the spinster-list would be twisting the idea of spinsterhood.]

Further Readings:

Google Answers: Famous Single Women
Ask Meta Filter: Help me find some swinging bachelorettes

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