Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Golden Age for Women Writers?

"So, if we may prophesy, women in time to come will write fewer novels, but better novels; and not novels only, but poetry and criticism and history.  But in this, to be sure, one is looking ahead to that golden, that perhaps fabulous, age when women will have what has so long been denied them--leisure, and money, and a room to themselves" Virginia Woolf, "Women and Literature," 1929.

I am currently sitting in my own room (in Bloomsbury, I'd like to add), with the entire day ahead of me and devoted solely to writing.  It's true I borrowed money to be here, but it's all in my own name and it's government subsidized, and when I go back to the US in a couple of months I'll have a fellowship waiting for me.  No amount or degree of education has been out of my reach.  I am currently working on a project that unites literary criticism and history, and all of the major scholars in my field are women.  I just spent an afternoon with a  woman who is so dedicated and intelligent, and who has leisure time, her own space and her own money, that she will quickly rise to the top her field.  My sister and countless other women I know write for a living.

I believe we live in the golden age that Virginia Woolf prophesied.  I wonder how many of us take it for granted, and we rightly should.  It shouldn't be an oddity that women are at the top of their fields, that they write for a living.  But, it is good to remember that it hasn't always been like this, that this a golden age still in its youth, and that there are still many women who are not so fortunate to have the means to write.  We should remember women like Virginia Woolf and all of those who fought their way into the public sphere. It was only the year before Woolf wrote the essay I quoted above that universal suffrage was extended in the UK, and the fight for that was over 50 years long.  The more research I do about women during this era, especially the First World War, the more amazed and in awe I am at their strength and fortitude and their push to be heard.  

Virginia Woolf envisioned a change that has not only happened, but continues. We're part of this. Isn't that exciting?  I for one am going to spend the rest of my day writing and researching and preparing to give a presentation at an international conference in Edinburgh on Friday.  What will you do?  

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