I have been meaning to read something by Virginia Woolf for ages. Somehow, I managed to earn a master’s degree in English with only having read one or two of her short stories. This year, I decided I needed to finally pick up one of her books. I even bought two of the beautiful Vintage Classics editions of her novels as motivation. And I guess it worked, because I finally finished reading A Room of Her Own, and since it was included in the edition I bought, I also ended up reading Three Guineas. (I am going to review A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas individually, since I had different reactions to them.)
(From Goodreads) In 1928 Virginia Woolf delivered two college lectures which were expanded and published in 1929 as A Room of One’s Own. Why is it, Woolf asks, that men have always had power, influence, wealth, and fame, while women have had nothing but children? There will be female Shakespeares in the future, Woolf argues, only if women are provided with two basics of freedom: a fixed income of 500 per year and a room of one’s own in which to write. Three Guineas, a sequel to A Room of One’s Own, was written in 1938 after Virginia Woolf received three separate requests for a guinea–one for a women’s college building fund, one for a society promoting the employment of professional women, and one to help prevent war and “protect culture, and intellectual liberty.” Three Guineas, whose working title was “On Being Despised,” is Woolf’s answer to these requests as she examines the causes and points out they are inseparable. Read together, A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas sound a powerful call for the intellectual and spiritual liberation of women.
I’ll start with A Room of One’s Own, which I absolutely loved! It is basically a long essay about why women have been viewed as the lesser sex. It is not, she argues, anything to do with biology, but with opportunity. Women were not given the opportunities to become Shakespeare or lawyers or presidents. And if they had been, history would have looked very different. I really enjoyed how Woolf addressed this issue, and I definitely agreed with a lot of the points she made. It is already one of my favorite works of feminist nonfiction (right up there with Mary Wollstonecraft), and entirely worth reading. Even though it was written close to a hundred years ago, it is still relevant today.
In Three Guineas, Woolf answers requests to donate to three separate causes: a women’s college building fund, a war prevention fund, and to help “protect culture and intellectual liberty”. While I thought she made some excellent arguments here – like war could be prevented in many cases by giving more women political power – I just didn’t connect with this one as much as I did with A Room of One’s Own. It’s a valuable piece of literature, but it was definitely a little lengthy, and it lacked the power of A Room of One’s Own.
★★★★★ for A Room of One’s Own. I loved it, and will definitely be reading it again!
★★★☆☆ for Three Guineas. It was good, but a bit of a letdown after A Room of One’s Own.
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