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Archive for the ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Category

Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House in Sussex, England

Virginia Woolf’s feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1929) continues to matter to women, particularly those who identify as feminists.

In a video presented March 18 by the South Orange Public Library in honor of Women’s History Month, Anne Fernald discusses Woolf’s seminal book. In the hour-long “Virginia Woolf and ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Today,” Fernald discusses rooms, freedom, and how feminist writers and scholars think through Woolf today.

She also asks listeners to imagine what their own room dedicated to creative pursuits might look like.

Fernald is a professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Issues at Fordham University, editor of the Cambridge University Press edition of Mrs. Dalloway (2014) and author of Virginia Woolf: Feminism and the Reader (2006).

Virginia Woolf’s desk in her writing lodge at Monk’s House, 2019

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International Women’s Day is Monday, March 8, and the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain has put out a call that draws attention to the current plight of working women and connects it to Virginia Woolf’s feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1929).

With women’s employment taking a huge hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the VWSGB is asking us to share a photograph of a room of our own — if we are lucky enough to have one.

Women, work, and the pandemic

The pandemic has affected women’s work lives in drastic ways. The BBC is calling it a “shecession” and cites these facts:

  • Globally, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s.
  • In the U.S., unemployment has intensified the most for those employed in personal care and food service jobs, where women predominate.
  • One in four women surveyed said they were thinking about reducing or leaving paid work due to the pandemic.
  • Those disproportionately affected in the U.S. include black women and Latinas.
  • Some subgroups are squeezed even more, like mothers of young children and mothers without partners or relatives.

In addition, recent projections estimate that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024—two full years after a recovery for men, according to Fortune.

The pertinence of A Room of One’s Own

So the British society has turned its attention to Virginia Woolf’s eternally pertinent feminist manifesto, A Room of One’s Own, a text the society writes, Now more than ever . . . is acutely relevant given that women’s work is being so squeezed and undervalued, and space is at a premium in family homes and elsewhere during life under lockdown, with working and schooling taking place in the home.”

Share your room of your own or your thoughts about the essay

So here’s the charge: Share photos of your own Room of One’s Own, if you are lucky enough to have one, or your reflections on Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own and what it means to you. The society will share contributions on its social media pages.

Email your contribution to marielleoneill88@hotmail.com

And on March 8, check the VWSGB social media accounts:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/VWSGB
Instagram: @virginiawoolfsociety
Twitter: @VirginiaWoolfGB

 

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

 

Virginia Woolf’s desk in her writing lodge at Monk’s House, 2019

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The road to the ERA leads to Virginia, including Virginia Woolf. For although it was the state of Virginia that today became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, Virginia Woolf would surely approve.

When I read that news less than an hour ago, tears came to my eyes. If I hadn’t been at work, I probably would have let them fall. But I restrained myself and took to social media and this blog instead.

What happened today has been a long time coming. The ERA has a long history. It was nearly 100 years ago that Alice Paul crafted the amendment, which was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and subsequently reintroduced in every congressional session for half a century.

And the fight is not yet over. A Facebook friend who is also an attorney explained,

Now the legal battles begin. An opposing group has already filed for an injunction to prevent presentation to Congress based on the deadline. They will also say it is just plain too late, that the whole thing must start over. Proponents argue that the deadline was arbitrary, singular and an unconstitutional part of the process, inserted separately after the body of the Amendment was passed in an effort to scuttle it, and that a different Amendment (27) was ratified after 200 years of dormancy. Several red states that voted to rescind their ratification will also challenge, but there is no mention in the Constitution of a rescission process, only reversal as happened with Prohibition, plus, wouldn’t it be too late for that, too? (There are efforts in Congress to remove the deadline retroactively but, doubtful that will happen with this Congress. ) WHEW! I hope I am around to see a successful conclusion to an issue I have worked on for so long. And maybe even a woman President.

Meanwhile, thanks to the state of Virginia, Alice Paul, and all who came after her, including Virginia Woolf, whose feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1928) is part of the canon that propels us forward toward full equality.

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Cecil Woolf pauses in front of Persephone Books, Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, in June 2016.

Tucked away on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, Persephone Books has been my favorite London bookstore since I first visited it — twice — during my 2016 trip.

That’s not just because it is located on the same street where Jacob Flanders of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room had his very own room. It is also because the shop reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-20th century (mostly) women writers. It is, in short, a treasure.

A stack of gray dust covers

Every time I visit, I cannot resist purchasing as many as I can carry of Persephone’s 135 books. From Marghanita Laski’s To Bed With Grand Music to Barbara Euphan Todd’s Miss Ranskill Comes Home, each is unique. And none has disappointed.

A stack of Persephone Books, each with its gray dust cover and colorful endpaper with matching bookmark, is eternally in my TBR pile, including the three I bought this year: They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple; Tory Heaven or Thunder on the Right, another by Laski; and Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith.

This year, though, I decided to spare myself. Having enough to carry, I had Persephone ship my books to my home in the U.S. They arrived within a week of my return, accompanied by a gracious hand-written note of thanks.

Still urgent today

And now Persephone, founded by Nicola Beauman, has printed a new edition of Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own (1929). It is wrapped in Persephone’s classic soft gray dust cover, with the 1930 Vanessa Bell textile design “Stripe” as its endpaper and matching bookmark.

A Room of One’s Own, with its central premise that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction, is a volume whose message has urgency and currency today, says Clara Jones, who wrote the preface.

The poetry and pragmatism of Woolf’s central claim about the room and the money have taken on renewed urgency today. The ubiquity of debt for a generation of young people who pay large university tuition fees, are charged prohibitive rents and paid low wages, combined with the fact that all but the luckiest (or best connected) with literary ambitions will begin their apprenticeship by working for free, make Woolf’s trinity of space, privacy and financial security as worth striving for as ever. – Clara Jones, Preface to Persephone edition of A Room of One’s Own

It is 90 years since Woolf wrote her iconic piece. You can read more about the Persephone edition (cost £13) on the Persephone website and in the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald.

About the founder and her store

Beauman herself is a legend in the world of book publishing — and in the world of Woolf. Along with Clara Farmer of the Hogarth and Chatto and Windus, she appeared on a panel at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in Reading, England. Aptly enough, the conference theme was Woolf and the World of Books, with Beauman and Farmer’s panel titled “Publishers, Publishing & Bookselling.”

Beauman began Persephone 20 years ago as a mail-order publishing business with a list of 12 books. She now has 30,000 subscribers to her free magazine The Persephone Biannually. And when the shop celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year, a crowd of fans stopped in throughout the day and evening.

Here’s what Beauman had to say about the books she publishes in an April 14 New York Times story acknowledging her store’s 20 years in business:

The connection between them is that they were forgotten and they’re very well-written. I’m very keen on story and on page-turners. When I get to the end of a book I like to put it down and feel absolutely wrenched by what I’ve read, to be in a different world.
I can attest to the power of the books Persephone publishes. Upon finishing each of my Persephone Books, I find it difficult to make my way back into my own everyday world. I am that affected by what I have read.

Get a close look at Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as the inside and outside of Persephone, with this YouTube video, the 2018 pilot episode of “Fran’s Book Shop.”

Inside Persephone Books with founder Nicola Beauman at work at her desk, July 2017.

A table full of “Fifty Books We Wish We Had Published” at Persephone Books in July 2017

A wall full of books in the traditional gray dust covers at Persephone Books in 2017

Persephone Books isn’t shy about making political statements. This banner hung in the shop in 2018.

A Woolf sighting at Persephone Books in June 2018

The window display at Persephone Books changes. This was the view in July.

 

 

 

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A Room of One’s Own. We have read it. We have discussed it. We have been inspired by it. But today 23 of us got an up-close view of Virginia Woolf’s original draft manuscript for the book. Now you can, too, thanks to Leonard Woolf and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

At the Fitzwilliam

Leonard Woolf donated a large piece of the manuscript to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 1942, after the museum’s director requested that Leonard give the institution something related to Virginia’s work. But because it was wartime, the manuscript lay neglected for nearly 50 years.

Titled “Women & Fiction,” it is the first draft of the book Woolf would eventually call A Room of One’s Own, and it has two other connections with Cambridge. The book had its origins in two talks on women and fiction that Woolf gave at Newnham and Girton Colleges in Cambridge in October 1928. And a lunch Woolf ate in Dadie Rylands’ room at King’s College inspired the luncheon scene in the first chapter of the book.

Background of the manuscript

Our visit to the Fitzwilliam to view Woolf’s manuscript was today’s outing for the Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens. Dr. Trudi Tate, director of the course, shared some of the book’s background.

Dr. Trudi Tate

”Woolf worked incredibly quickly on this book, so fast, in fact, that she found it difficult to read her own handwriting when she had to type it up,” Tate said.

”As Beth Daugherty tells us, she wrote a huge amount of the book in two months, March and April 1929. She began to create the book in her mind when she was lying in bed, recovering from illness. She drafted it rapidly, in ‘one of my excited outbursts of composition’ (Diary 3, 218-19),” Tate explained.

Significance of the manuscript

The manuscript’s significance as the working draft for A Room of One’s Own was not recognized by scholars until the 1990s, according to the Fitzwilliam’s website.

At that time, S.P. Rosenbaum published a full transcription (1992). In his introduction, he gives details of Woolf’s lectures at the Cambridge colleges and traces the text’s evolution — from talks to magazine article to feminist polemic in book form.

The 20 pages from chapter three of the manuscript that are not part of the Fitzwilliam document are preserved separately in the Monk’s House Papers at the University of Sussex.

Creative process of the book

Tate detailed how Woolf’s writing process for Room included several stage of creation:

  1. the lectures, including the “Women & Fiction” essay and the “Women in Fiction” draft viewed at the Fitzwilliam
  2. A Room of One’s Own typescript
  3. A proof copy of the book
  4. The first published edition of the book, published by the Hogarth Press in Britain and Harcourt Brace in the U.S. in 1929.

Digitized version available online

The digitized version of the manuscript that was once on display at the Fitzwilliam as part of the museum’s past exhibition “Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings” is available online. View the entire manuscript on the Fitzwilliam Museum website.

A side view of Virginia Woolf’s manuscript of “Women & Fiction,” which was the first draft of “A Room of One’s Own.”

The cover of Woolf’s draft manuscript for “Women & Fiction”

Page one of the manuscript, with Woolf’s own edits. Note: This page is the same color as the others but the lighting makes it look lighter.

Page seven of the manuscript with Woolf’s edits and margin notes

Page 12 of the manuscript

Each student in the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens was able to view the manuscript up close and take photos of it.

After learning about the manuscript and viewing it, the students in the Literature Cambridge course from countries including Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, India, the UK, and the U.S., took turns reading the first chapter of “A Room of One’s Own” aloud.

Some of the 23 students in the Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens

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