Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’ is considered a milestone in feminist literature. The sheer relevance and the way of delivering the topic make it a fine piece of literature. It was written in 1928 when the feminist movement was in the initial stage. Ms. Woolf was asked to speak about “Women and Fiction”, and she ended up writing an essay on the topic.
She started by pointing out that the topic has confused her. She didn’t know if she was asked about fiction written by them, for them, or on them. And amidst this dilemma, she decided to capture all three. She makes a simple statement, that if a woman has to write she should have a room of her own and financial resources to do so. She argues that historically women have been uneducated and not allowed to participate in social activities like men. Women have not been able to express themselves in literature because of this.
“I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
She pulls out various examples from history, like the Bronte sisters, who had to adopt a pen name ‘the bell brothers’ to get accepted in literature. The unacceptance and illiteracy of women have led to the under expression of women in literature. And it’s the men who write about women.
She draws an example of Shakespeare and his hypothetical sister ‘Judith’. If she were also gifted with the gift of literature like his brother, but was left uneducated and not given equal opportunity of representation. She would get lost in the world without her stories and plays. Ms.Woolf’s example was simple, that if Shakespeare was a woman the world would miss on remarkable plays and Stories. Similarly, due to the discrimination, there have been a large number of women who have not been able to tell their stories. After all, if one has to write literature, she should have resources and education to do so.