Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

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In the extended essay, A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf asks the question to herself and out loud, “Where are the women writers and why did women not write?” Virginia is focused on women during the Elizabethan Era when asking these questions. For example, “For it is a perennial puzzle why no woman wrote a word of that extraordinary literature when every man, it seemed, was capable of song or sonnet. What were the conditions in which women lived, I asked myself” (35).While pondering such a topic Woolf decided it was in her best interest to do further research to answer her question. Within her father’s library Woolf discovered some possible reasons as to why women did not write during this time: “I went, therefore, to the shelf where the histories stand and took down one of the latest, Professor Trevelyan’s History of England. Once more I looked up Women, found “position of,” and turned to the pages indicated. “Wife-beating,” I read, “was a recognized right of man, and was practiced without shame by high as well as low.” (35) The Professor Woolf is referring is Sir George Macaulay Trevelyan. Below is a picture of Trevelyan.

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From Trevelyan Volume One of History of England, it is easy to see that very often women were wrongly treated by their husbands. In fact Trevelyan says, “it was practiced without shame” (35). This means it was acceptable in their culture to put women in their place by using aggressive means. This declares that it was often too difficult for women to even write during these times because of the possible fears of their consequences that they might receive. Further in the reading Woolf discusses more about her findings: “the daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents’ choice was liable to be locked up, beaten and flung about the room, without any shock being inflicted on public opinion. Marriage was not an affair of personal affection, but of family avarice, particularly in the ‘chivalrous’ upper classes..” (35).  This shows that not only was it acceptable to have Husbands beat their wives but it was also passed down in families. This can be an example of traditional beliefs within a society. After reading about this Woolf seems surprised and disgusted with the idea of women not having the freedom to write. Taking Woolf’s reaction we can conclude that Woolf did not experience something like this in a family of her own. Below is a picture of Virginia Woolf with her father Sir Leslie Stephen and her mother Julia Jackson.

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When reviewing literature such as History of England and A Room of One’s Own, it is important to see if things have changed for the better. Judging by Woolf’s reaction to the injustice she read in History of England, things have changed.

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