Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

Overcoming Tradition

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Virginia Woolf, born January 25th 1882, was one the best modernist writers of the 20th century. To be labeled a “modernist” one was not a traditional writer. For example the story did not have to go in chronological order, one could bounce around from topic to topic. Woolf exemplified this in her well-known work, A Room of One’s Own, published in 1929. The essay was rooted in topics of women and what a woman writer is.  In chapter one she goes into detail about how it is hard for women to overcome tradition. “Moreover, it is equally useless to ask what might have happened if Mrs. Seton and her mother and her mother before had amassed great wealth and laid it under the foundations of college and library, because, in the first place, to earn money was impossible for them…It is only for the last forty-eight years that Mrs. Seaton has had a penny over her own. For all the centuries before that it would have had been her husband’s property…” (p27) Women did not have the foundation that men had to build something of their own, such as to become a writer. They did not have help from their parents or even society. To overcome such disadvantage several women wrote under a pen name.  This way they could release books and no one would know that it was actually a woman who wrote it. The following video goes into detail about well-known women writers, what their pen name was and what they wrote.

We are now in the 21st century and women today are still trying to overcome tradition. A great example of this would be the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling. In the following video she talks about how her British publishers asked her to only use her initials so that boys would also read the books. They did not think they would be interested in books that were written by a woman.

Jump to minute 1:30.

Virginia Woolf did not seem hopeful in her outlook on the prospects of women writers. In the fourth chapter of A Room of One’s Own, she states “And I went on to ponder how a women nowadays would write a poetic tragedy in five acts-would she use verse-would she not use prose rather? But these are difficult questions which lie in the twilight of the future.” (p54) Woolf had no way of knowing at the time that several other women were in fact writing. Communication between women writers was slim because that wasn’t their primary job. They were seen as mothers and wives firstly. The idea of women being seen at home has indeed come along way but as seen with the example of J.K. Rowling, men still feel that women write as well as men.

-Erica Nelson

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