Feminism and women studies series by Jihane Rodriguez
A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf, plays a key and fundamental part in understanding the way in which women where perceived by society and the profound role they played during the 1900s. It is in essence a proposition for women’s independence. A Room of One’s Own is without a doubt a revelation of how “new” the feminist movement is, and the ways in which women’s education, political and social participation and status has changed over the last few decades.
In order to fully understand the significance and courage of her writings one must see the world through the cultural and historical view of the early 1900s. Reading Woolf’s essay it becomes apparent and very notorious that women were not allowed into universities nor in libraries, therefore they had very little chance to be active and educated members of society as ideological participants. As Woolf goes to explain, “A deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library of accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction” (p17) Women of the time had no access to knowledge nor education further than the one which allowed them to serve as perfect wives and mothers, ladies of society, yet not professionals, not with the power of an opinion of their own in matters of politics, philosophy, writing, and other arts reserved for the men.
She goes on to challenge society and their ways, in how men are free to decide their own paths while women are condemned to live a life of surrogacy. “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” (p72) and she challenges the general thought of the day. Women may be destined to be mothers, and serve their husbands yet they are free to feel and think as they pleased. This is without a doubt a radical way of thinking for the women of the era. Her impact in later feminist theories and movements as well as her tenacity and courage is a prime manifestation of women’s revolution in the early 1900s.
Money is seemed as a way to independence and status. Not social status as privileges of the monarchy, but as a social status in which men are above women. A patriarchal society in which men are allowed and expected to make their own money, and enjoy it and women is subjected to live in the shadow of the men’s success. Success and money are correlated and so is the chance to “have a room of one’s own” – money can buy this freedom, yet women are not entitled to neither money nor freedom to be successful on their own.
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” (p14) in Woolf’s view, the lack of a private space of a woman’s own has a deep impact in their ability to write fiction and to be successful as there are too many interruptions to deal with. She goes on to remark how her own path on the physical place that the university represents is truncated by laws and regulations that allow more freedom to men, and she suggests these obstacles have a deep impact on a woman’s intellectual exposure.
One could also ponder about the implications the lack of money would have on one’s ability to get published which would seem diminished if one was a woman (due to the lack of money making liberties during the 1900s) These “phenomenon” can still be seen even today in poor or developing countries. The lack of funds and time to “write fiction” in poor countries contributes to the smaller amounts of books published.