The Importance of Women Writers: A Room Of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

A Room Of One's Own


As a woman, speaking out is not an easy job whatever century she lives in, and when the topic comes to writing and expressing ideas, it can be worse, especially for those who are faced with gender discrimination. Virginia Woolf -- who is a quite considerable English author -- dwells on the important subject matter throughout feminist history. She advocates for women about creating a field while writing a piece to emanate their thoughts. Another key element is money; if a woman wants to write freely she needs financial support too. However, the most crucial thing is the existence of a room in order to focus on the inconspicuous angle while writing fiction and poetry and critiquing all forms of literature. As Jane Goldman underlines in Cambridge Introduction To Virginia Woolf , ‘’It is regarded as the first modern primer for feminist literary criticism, not least because it is also a source of many, often conflicting, theoretical positions.’’ As a pathfinder of feminist literature, Virginia Woolf involves unspoken heaped feminist elements in her book A Room of One’s Own.


Portrait of Virginia Woolf (January 25, 1882 – March 28, 1941), a British author and feminist, with her chignon.




Born into an intellectual family in 1882 London, England, Virginia Woolf was raised with Victorian values and free-thinking parents. She was the third of four children from her parent's marriage. Her father Leslie Stephen was an eminent literary figure and also the first editor of the Dictionary of National Biography. Her mother Julia Jackson had a reputation for saintly self-sacrifice. Unfortunately, the sudden death of her mother when Virginia was 13 affected and triggered her unbalanced mental health. Woolf’s half-sister, father, and brother died in quick succession, hence Woolf became more inclined to mental breakdowns. Virginia Woolf was an associate of the avant-garde, intellectual Bloomsbury Circle in northern London until her suicide in 1941. As Julia Briggs mentions, ‘’This series of tragedies, Briggs argues, accounted for Woolf's adult sense of precariousness, her awareness of the menace lurking beneath tranquility. A feeling of unease strongly influenced Woolf's fiction and replayed itself in her own life, as she tried, often without success, to maintain mental and emotional equilibrium.’’


A Room of One’s Own dates back to the lectures Woolf gave to women students at Cambridge. She was invited on the topic of Women and Fiction. She then introduced an imaginary character, as Woolf emphasizes in the novel, ‘’call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by any name you please — it is not a matter of any importance.’’ For Woolf, the significance of character is not a key element because she talks on behalf of every woman. The book begins with the narrator's experiences of being refused to enter the Oxbridge University library because of her gender. After observing the position distinctness between men and women encountered in the university, the narrator decides to go to the British Library so as to demystify herself as the written oeuvre by men. While she is searching manuscripts about women, she notices almost all of them are written by men. In the texts there is a wave of anger and despise and prevalence of patriarchal thoughts towards women. Women have been neglected and cut from access to education, financial power, and a legacy that men have had consistently gained. Men have used literature and balloon’s pride to confirm the lowness of women to surround their own supremacy. As Woolf mentions, ‘’ Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominated the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact, she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.’’


Virginia Woolf by Roger Fry, 1917



Switching back to the written history of women, the narrator mulls over the lack of knowledge about woman’s life. In the Elizabethan era, women had few rights, and mostly these rights depended on men. There was a huge hole ignored in women’s actions, successes, and expectations, and these accumulations led to an urgent need to create fiction written by a woman. The narrator creates a fictional story about William Shakespeare’s imaginary sister Judith Shakespeare. She pondered upon what would have happened to a woman who had a creative and genius mind, talented in literature just like William. However, she never had a chance to write and reflect her capacity into literature because of society’s pressure about the positions of women. She would be married against her will when she was too young and committing suicide due to the behaviors of society. As Jane Goldman mentions, ‘’Judith Shakespeare stands for the silenced woman writer or artist… Woolf seems to defer the arrival of Shakespeare’s sister in a celebration of women’s collective literary achievement ‘I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals’ (AROO 148–9). Shakespeare’s sister is a messianic figure who ‘lives in you and in me’ (AROO 148) and who will draw ‘her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners’ (AROO 149), but has yet to appear.’’ The women inside of Woolf's lectures have the opportunity to rebirth Judith’s story and reveal a saga that Judith never obtained. The narrator also puts forth that genius written accounts need to be gender equal. A writer should add both male and female voices in their work. In this way, great works can be consistent. Then, Woolf cuts short speaking as Mary Beton and tells the women that they must work to gain five hundred pounds a year and should have a room of their own which to display their literary works.


‘’ And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. Women have had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian slaves. Women, then, have not had a dog's chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own.’’

A Room of One's Own



Virginia Woolf sitting in an armchair at Monk's House.



A Room of One’s Own still has its importance for those struggling to have their own position in the global world and is accepted as one of most pioneer feminist literacy criticism as well. There is explicit truth that without material support women can not have intellectual independence, and as a result of the intellectual deficiency women can not write and focus on their literacy works. Woolf’s astute words lay out one of the problems that preserve its significance inside of the global world and even if reductive averse male voices keep on the lay wall towards the presence of women, female writers continue dispatched bold ideas against those barriers.


Resources


Woolf, Virginia, A Room of One’s Own, Mariner Books; First edition, August 1, 2005


Goldman, Jane, Cambridge Introduction To Virginia Woolf, Cambridge University Press, October 9, 2006


Briggs, Julia, Reading Virginia Woolf, Edinburgh University Press, June 14, 2006


Briggs, Julia, An Inner Life, The New York Times, retrieved https://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/20/books/review/yes-virginia.html (October 5, 2021)


Reid, Panthea, Virginia Woolf, Britannica, retrieved https://www.britannica.com/biography/Virginia-Woolf (October 4, 2021)


‘’Virginia Woolf’’, Columbia College, retrieved https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/virginia-woolf (October 5, 2021)


Image Resources


Portrait of Virginia Woolf, [Portrait] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:George_Charles_Beresford_-_Virginia_Woolf_in_1902_-_Restoration.jpg


Virginia Woolf by Roger Fry, [Illustration] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roger_Fry_-_Virginia_Woolf.jpg


Virginia Woolf sitting in an armchair at Monk's House, [Photograph] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Virginia_Woolf_at_Monk%27s_house.jpg




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Aylin Usta

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