Last episode, we discussed the life of Virginia Woolf, a feminist writer of the 20th century. In this episode, we’ll delve into A Room of One’s Own, a powerful lecture she delivered to group of young women from the Cambridge colleges of Newnham and Girton in 1928, compiled and published in 1929. In this summary and analysis of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, her groundbreaking (and often heartbreaking) work, we’ll discover what it was like for women who wrote fiction historically and during her lifetime. We’ll discuss Judith, the hypothetical sister of Shakespeare, Jane Austen’s mastery of the sentence, and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. In the end, we’ll talk about the primary things Virginia Woolf says are most important for any women hoping to create her best works of art.
This week marks the 100-year anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment being certified in the United States, which gave women the right to vote. Studying Virginia Woolf, a pivotal figure in the feminists’ movement, during this time deepened my appreciation and gratefulness for how far we’ve come since she gave this lecture in 1928. Yet, there is still work to be done. But imagine, if you can, sitting in a hall in 1928, hoping that this woman, Virginia Woolf, will give you the key to understanding how to be a successful woman writing fiction.
Even now, people hoping to sell you some course or book on how to be a successful author will tell you that “it’s the best time to be a writer.” With the widespread adaptation of the independent publishing model, the ease in which to publish ebooks, paperbacks, and even hardbacks, many have abandoned the archaic standard of traditional publishing houses in favor of seeing their writing as a business of their own. This is exactly what Virginia Woolf did all those years ago, having started her own small business publishing her works and the works of others she admired.
But being an author, then or now, is not a path of financial stability for many people, which is one of the pivotal parts of Woolf’s speech in A Room of One’s Own. While we delve into the details of what she says, imagine that you have one foot in 1928 and one foot in the present day. How much has really changed?
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she wants to write fiction. Woolf believed women should be educated and be given the space in which to read, think, and write works that could inspire the future.
Woolf argues that women need time, space, money, and idleness to succeed at writing fiction. She received 500 pounds per year from an inheritance from her aunt, which is equivalent to about $3400 per month in USD. She argues this is an ideal amount for women to receive in order not to worry about money, be free to travel, and be free to think deeply, and write courageously.
Written and produced by Vanessa K. Eccles.
Research by Whitney Zahar.
Music by Kevin MacLeod and Epidemic Sound (paid licenses).
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