Archive for September, 2007

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make HistoryVirginia Woolf is known for at least one famous feminist quote: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is known for another: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Or at least she should be, since that sentence has appeared on buttons, t-shirts, and more.

In real life, most people are probably not aware that Ulrich wrote that line. It first appeared in an obscure scholarly article she published in American Quarterly, the journal of the American Studies Association, in 1976.

Now it is the title of her new book, Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, published by Knopf. It’s a book that focuses on three women who weren’t perfectly well-behaved and, so, made history.

One of the three is Virginia Woolf. The other two are 15th century French writer Christine de Pizan and 19th century American suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Ulrich discusses a key work from each: de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies, Stanton’s 1898 memoir Eighty Years and More, and Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

Ulrich writes about these three authors as women who experienced book-inspired feminist awakenings at very different historical moments, writes Megan Marshall on Slate.

Ulrich is a true history lover and has a special interest in telling women’s stories that often remain untold. In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, she described herself an “evangelist for history.”

In her new book, she articulates her thoughts about history with these words: “If well-behaved women seldom make history, it is not only because gender norms have constrained the range of female activity but because history hasn’t been very good at capturing the lives of those whose contributions have been local and domestic.”

In Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, Ulrich helps capture the stories and the times of three notable women writers of the past. She uses their stories and their work– and adds context and analysis — to tell the tale of what she describes as “the renaissance in women’s history.”

And how lovely that she included Woolf among her trio of notables.

Read more
Read more about Urlich and her book in the Harvard University Gazette. Read the NY Times review. Or read an interview with the author in the Bellingham Herald.

Read an April 2009 review.

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It turns out that Virginia Woolf is not the only literary figure who has regenerated herself in the blogosphere.

We gave Virginia’s MySpace page of her own top billing on this blog of her own back in August.

Now novelist Pagan Kennedy describes her discovery of MySpace as a literary meeting place for authors and readers in her Sept. 1, 2007 essay in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Despite the fact that her essay is cleverly titled “A Space for Us” — an obvious play on Woolf’s words — Kennedy’s essay does not include Woolf in her mini-list of MySpace authors masquerading as famous writers. But she does include William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.

I guess it’s up to Woolf’s own circle to keep her at the center.

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