Well-behaved women rarely make history – which I guess makes me an historical figure!
Laurel Thatcher-Ulrich once said that “well-behaved women rarely make history.” I never knew until recently an actual person had said this. I thought it was just one of those “anonymous” things that gets reprinted incessantly on posters, bumper stickers and repeatedly copied until the words are grainy and the paper speckled. However, I recently saw in the New York Times Book Review that she has written a book by that title now. I tried to pick it up, but the store was out. So, I’ll have to order it from Amazon.
However, I can’t walk into a bookstore and not walk out with an armful of books, so I busied myself browsing in the feminist section and came out pissed off and broke.
One of the books I picked up was “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf. I am sure somewhere in my studies in my women’s college days I was supposed to read this book. However, I didn’t read a lot of the books I was supposed to in college (or high school for that matter). I managed to pick up enough from skimming and class discussions to pass the tests. But, of course, that never quite gives you the full experience and inspires the critical thought your teacher is trying to instill in you. Kids, don’t try this at home.
But it’s time. I’ve seen a play based on this book and remembered being incredibly inspired by it. It’s time to read the actual work!
Virginia Woolf, of course, was an early 20th century author whose works were very feminist in nature. She also was nuttier than peanut brittle. She killed herself by drowning, but let’s not dwell on that.
Something in the introduction to “A Room of One’s Own” struck me very close to home. I love to write stories about people’s lives – true stories based on their own words. I always used to say that everyone had a story to tell, then years after I developed that little theory for myself, CBS started a series by the same name, with a concept very similar to what I had in mind. They randomly picked people and interviewed them until they figured out what their “stories” were. It was very cool.
I think, now, I know a lot of women whose stories I would like to write. A lot of breast cancer survivors, but also survivors of life. Women who charge forward and fulfill dreams, have fun and make the most of their time here.
Virginia Woolf said something similar. She, of course, was dealing in her era with the idea that she was one of the few female authors ever. The premise of “A Room of One’s Own” is that there are no women writers because women aren’t given the resources they need (a room of her own) to write.
“All these infinitely obscure lives remain to be recorded, I said … and went on in thought through the streets of London feeling in imagination the pressure of dumbness, the accumulation of unrecorded life, whether from the women at the street corners with their arms akimbo … or from the violet-sellers and the match-sellers and the old crones stationed under doorways; or from drifting girls whose faces, like waves in sun and cloud, signal the coming of men and women … Above all, you must illumine your own soul with its profundities and its shallows, and its vanities and its generosities, and say what your beauty means to you or your plainness, and what is your relation to the everchanging and turning world of gloves and shoes and stuffs swaying up and down among the faint scents that come through chemists’ bottles down arcades of dress material over a floor of pseudomarble.”
Discuss among yourselves!