Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
This radical process reveals the hidden truths of women’s writing, their success, failure and the circumstances under which they wrote. Moreover, the essay is also a powerful answer to the male biased assumption and society that women are biologically inferior and mentally weak with no creativity. Because of such gender discrimination women have less literary writing and have a few writers.
Woolf depicts the reasons like the lack of material resources, lack of appropriate socio economic environment, lack of economic dependence, lack of education, domesticity, lack of time, public relation, lack of their own room and social freedom that have hinder the women’s history of writing such lacks restricts the proper growth of women’s physicality and spirituality.
Woolf says that the so called mental and physical inferiority of women is not in born but the outcome of male biased cruel society and values. She therefore, addresses the question why sister of Shakespeare was not able to write even a single play.
She further says had Shakespeare been a woman in his time he would not have been the father of English drama. If she had written, she would have been a monster, not a writer. So Woolf demands for the equal exercise of material resources in a society so that both men and women came together.
Woolf, while giving the historical survey of women and fiction’ praises the women writers who initiated the tradition of women writing despite the social hostility, Lady Winchilsea is seventeenth century women writers and burst out again the position of women in society. As a result she suffered from different social injustices like her writings were denied to publish, remained in melancholy she was ridiculed and laughed at. Therefore, her writing opens with a feministic speech, “Women live like Bats, labours like Beasts and die like Worms.”
This statement shows the whole scenario of contemporary social economic atmosphere that was absolutely against the development of female personality. The assumption was that no women of sense, sanity and modesty could write anything else, she was enlisted as an eccentric or a monster.
Woolf praises Mrs. Aphra Behn, who wrote for her financial support and proved that women could write and even for living. Similarly, she praises Jane Austin, George Elite and Bronte sisters for their own room.
So it was easy for them to write fiction with their domestic experience. Some wrote aggressively some mildly and some with male pseudonyms. Austin reflects her domesticity but Charlotte Bronte is free and presents herself against social and male chauvinism.
Thus, Woolf is of the opinion that literature is open to anyone. People can close the door of libraries but it is impossible for them to restrict the freedom of mind of women. Despite the social and gender inequality female writers produced some great works which prove that female also feel as the man feel. They also possess intellect and creativity. Only male biased society takes them as inferior to prove their so-called superiority.