Direct Comparison Between Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf in Feminism
8 November 2019Mary Wollstonecraft is considered one of the founders of the feminist movement and philosophy. She wrote books for children, novels, history works, and in defense of the rights of both men and women alike. She was mostly famous for her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Published in 1792, she demands gender equality between men and women. She insists on giving women the right education in order to establish a society that is prosperous and just. She also talks about marriage and how it should be a fellowship rather than just mere marriage. She also replied angrily on books of the likes of John Gregory and Jean-Jacques Rousseau who encouraged depriving women educational opportunities similar to men. Although demanding women rights, Wollstonecraft does not deny that men are superior when it comes to physical strength and valor. A lot of that have to do with the fact that she lived in the 18th century. Wollstonecraft wrote this book during the peak of the French Revolution, so clearly she was motivated with it, as the wind for change was sweeping throughout Europe, and hopefully, at that time, the change for the situation of women.In her book, Wollstonecraft rejects the idea of women being submissive and she not doesn’t want them to revolt against men, she just wants them to have power in themselves, to be able to seek independence and to have self-confidence that they can survive with their own personalities. She says “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves”. She mocks and rejects the ideas of Rousseau who emphasizes that women should be only educated to be better domestically and in pleasure of men, saying that women are also human beings who have their own life and privacy. Both men and women granted power by God to endure all hardships and difficulties through life.
On the other hand, we have Virginia Woolf, born in 1882, regarded one of the most prominent female writers and feminist advocate in the 20th century. She was encouraged writing by her father, whom death caused a mental breakdown for her. She was well-known for her novels, short stories, and criticism. She also wrote about the first world war, arguing that the patriarchy systems are always greedy for blood and destruction. Woolf is mainly known for her A Room of One’s Own, written in 1929, which is considered as a majorwritten work in feminist literary criticism. In this book, Woolf talks about the rights of women in general, and of female writers in particular. She states that a woman must have money and own room if she’s to be a writer. This is totally against the traditions at the time she was living. Women at that time were only busy with domestic affairs, cooking, and looking after her children and the pleasure of their father. Writing with such condition is quite impossible no matter how talented the woman can be. She argues that there are many intelligent and talented women who didn’t get the chance to be successful writers because of their obligations to the house affairs. She depicts an imaginary sister of William Shakespeare, telling that what if he had a sister who was as smart as he? Would she get a chance to write? While being busy with house works? Would she have a room of her own? She says that what made Shakespeare a pioneer writer wasn’t his intelligence, it was the general circumstances that gave him space, wealth, and room to write. She says that even with a room of her own, a female writer would commit suicide at that time due to the pressure she would feel to be a female writer.
Both Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf share a magnificent sort of similarity. They are both powerful when it comes to make a statement, for instance, Wollstonecraft says: “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”. And Woolf says: “If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?”. They both encourage support of knowledge and education for women. They both are ready challenge for that honorable cause. Also, they were both struggle for their cause in turning points events of the history of the world. Wollstonecraft being able to write about the rights of women during the peak of the French revolution. Same goes for Woolf, her book was written during the inter-war era where a new world has started to take shape. Women gaining more rights and freedom at that period of time with the most notably, the right to vote.
When it comes to differences, the major difference between the two is their use of language. Woolf deploying personifications which was common during her era, the contemporary era and used less strict language. While on the other side, Wollstonecraft, affected by the Romantic poets during her time, used multiple emotional description in her book. Moreover, Woolf’s writing was less aggressive towards patriarchy since the limits on women’s rights were loosened at the beginning of the 20th century. Overall, Wollstonecraft saw that the independence of women first come through education, while Woolf, also calling for education, thought economic independency is very important for women to have freedom.
- Wollstonecraft, Mary. 1792. A Vindication of The Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. London :Printed for J. Johnson.
- Woolf, Virginia. 1957. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1957.
Comparison of Mary Wollstonecraft’s and John Mill’s Ideas
Wollstonecraft and Mill share a typical errand, in particular, the support for more rights for women. That backing starts in conceding that women are dealt with uniquely in contrast to men. In any case, as their articles appear, there are contrasts in their backings that mirror certain logical contrasts of their occasions. When we read about both Wollstonecraft and Mills, we can come to an understanding that they both contribute to the most influential philosophical reasonings about women’s rights and their psychological actions during their own eras. Mill’s “The Greatest Happiness Principle” generally consists of the greater good one can do to help society blossom. The concept of Wollstonecraft and her ideas about the rights women deserve to have support from John Stuart Mill’s idea of the The Greatest Happiness Principle. Why? you might ask. To provide it in simpler terms, Mill’s believed in a state of no judgment, where even gay rights were admired at the time by him. Having both Mill and Wollstonecraft as revolutionary feminists.
Wollstonecraft expresses her ideas on the off chance that, for example, a lady gave more consideration to what men think about her looks, at that point she is flopping in her ethical commitment since she is occupied from her job, herself. She contends that every single lady ought to procure appropriate training as the best way to pick up regard, just as the opportunity to pick the degree of her freedom. She expresses the concept of education in a way were “only men” in her eyes have the opportunity to receive education, while women are neglected by proper schooling to minimize their intelligence. Considering the sole fact that men manipulate women to the point where they have to water them down, so they don’t rebel was one of her strongest philosophical expressions. A woman who isn’t instructed sees herself from the viewpoint of men. Accordingly, being aware of that manly point of view, she becomes crafty, mean, and narrow-minded, either in defiance to or veneration for that view. Her objective isn’t to split away from that residential cycle, however, may be to give it better status and name and, therefore, inspire the status of women.
On the other hand, John Stuart Mill’s arguments didn’t fall far from the foundation of Wollstonecraft. Mill, in contrast to Wollstonecraft, expects to give women the privilege to go into fields up to this point known to have a place with men. Mill’s essay consists of the idea of “perfect equality”, a level of influence where no side is given control over the other. By impeccable uniformity, Mill implies that women ought to have equivalent rights as men in all aspects of life, for example, occupation, government, and marriage. He explains his reasoning by applying the roles of nature and nurture, which made him question nature which is used by society to justify the predicament of women. To him, he sees that the idea of women is really the manner in which society has them to be, which includes how the nature of them is nurtured by society. He argues the idea that women should have their own reasonings and can rise above men or be equal to them.
Both Wollstonecraft and Mill have very interesting arguments for their own thinking. Although Mill consists of a more freedom-based state of nature, Wollstonecraft also articulates the principle of her reasoning which is the idea of education being more accessible for women due to constant manipulation being addressed towards them by men, since they deep down know the power that they can hold. The general public has never given women much room and opportunity to investigate what their tendency truly is. Or maybe, by setting and administering women inside the system of the prevailing man-centric mind, society has sustained the woman into what she is. Just, the contrasts among people are the results of the general public as opposed to the aftereffect of nature. The arrangement, to him, is found in opening space for women to investigate further the points of confinement of their temperament.
So, where does Wollstonecraft fall into Mill’s idea of The Greatest Happiness Principle. It falls into place since Wollstonecraft believes in the idea that women should also receive rights, although the thinkers don’t agree with everything and see eye to eye, they do present distinctive evidence about how women’s rights fall under the general idea of happiness. Mill’s believed in overall equality and the greatest happiness meaning he’s philosophical reasoning allowed us all to live freely against all judgments. Meaning that women’s rights would not only be something presented to us as “normal” as a man’s rights, but also allows them to live freely amongst those that do not manipulate the constant idea that they cannot function as men do. This falls under the concept of “The Greatest Happiness Principle”, because the principle here is to release all judgments to create equality. Equality that allows not only men but women as well to fall under the same spectrum and have the abilities/opportunities that men have on a regular basis.
Taking everything into account, this paper doesn’t deplete the issues that the two creators investigate in their papers. In any case, it investigates the focal subjects in the two articles. Wollstonecraft considers instruction to be sufficient. Mill’s requests substantially more. At last, the two of them perceive the unfavorable predicament of the womenfolk and require their ‘opportunity’- any circumstance superior to the present.
The Impact of Mary Wollstonecraft on the Present
Mary Wollstonecraft is considered one of the revolutionary thinkers in the world. As a matter of fact, she has been known as the ‘first feminist’ or ‘mother of women’s liberation.’ Her book-length exposition on ladies’ rights, and particularly on ladies’ education, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, is an exemplary masterpiece of feminist ideas, and a must-read for any individual who needs to comprehend the historical backdrop of feminism. Wollstonecraft’s life and her work have been deciphered in various ways, contingent upon the disposition of the author towards women’s equality. In this paper, I will discuss the revolutionary in terms of her impact on our current lived experience.
To begin with, during Mary’s time, education was largely a privilege for boys whereas girls weren’t being educated. One of her obvious impact in the present society is that both males and females are given an equal opportunity in education and are taught together. Wollstonecraft proposed her extreme idea of educating young ladies together with young men and that young ladies ought to be taught anatomy and medicine to make them level-headed attendants of their babies, guardians and spouses. “If boys and girls were permitted to pursue the same studies together, they might early learn the graceful decencies that produce modesty…” (Wollstonecraft 96).
In addition to equal opportunities in education, the revolutionary touched on the woman’s reputation. Back then during her time, a lot of actions such as showing petticoats were considered inappropriate for the woman and whoever did such was looked upon with contempt. She defended women’s decisions by saying that the “measuring of shadows produced a false calculation, because their length depends so much on the height of the sun” (Wollstonecraft 80). She adopted a virtous position on notorieties by saying that not all might be the worst-case scenario and judging people is not always right. Our current living experience is different in that today’s women in America can even be almost naked and they are cheered upon instead of being held in contempt. In fact, some musicians these days perform semi-naked in stadiums with millions of viewers without anyone considering that as inappropriate.
Another impact of Wollstonecraft on today’s society is the disappearance of double standards when it comes to sexual encounters. During her time, men were expected to have a busy sex life while the women would face harsh punishments if it was found out that they are living their sex life freely. She wrote that, “the reputation of chastity is prized by women, it is despised by men: and the two extremes are equally destructive to morality” (Wollstonecraft 83). In our current society, women are freely living their sex life just as men used to without facing any harsh punishments that were present in the past. There aren’t any double standards as both men and women are treated equal.
Finally, upholding women’s suffrage is also Mary Wollstonecraft’s impact on the present. She wrote that “I really think that women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without having any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government.” (Wollstonecraft 87). In today’s society, women are allowed to vote in every election and can even stand up to be elected alongside their male counterparts. Women hold various political positions of power.
In conclusion, Mary Wollstonecraft was a revolutionary who had a tremendous impact in our present living experience by championing feminism. Our current living experience is different because of this philosopher since there are equal education opportunities for both boys and girls; less judging on the women’s reputation; disappearance of double standards when it comes to sexual encounters and women’s suffrage.
- Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. By Mary Wollstonecraft. J. Johnson, 1792.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s Ideas on the Value of Women in Society
Mahatma Ghandi is often attributed with the thought that a society should be judged by its treatment of its weakest members. Two theorists, Rousseau and Wollstonecraft, authored radically different philosophies on a woman’s place in society as a reflection of their views on the state of civilization. Mary Wollstonecraft claimed to have been “half in love with” Jean Jacques Rousseau, though the majority of her work was in response to his chauvinistic writings, and she engaged his text in order to make a case from his theories for the value of women to society. He argued for maintenance of the status quo, for the continuation of women’s suppression. She argued for female empowerment and the opposite of everything inequitable and unfair to women in civilization. Where Rousseau saw civilization as a story of decline for the corrupt human beings, Wollstonecraft had hope for a civilization she viewed in progress towards emancipation and equality for women. Though Rousseau was able to pinpoint some of the follies of civilization, he neglected to address the subjugation of women and therefore Wollstonecraft is the superior and more compelling voice. Not only was hers the more compelling argument, Wollstonecraft spoke to universal and timeless problems that plagued the women of her time, continue to burden modern women, and will further hinder future generations of women as well.
The female sex is without question the more aesthetically pleasing. Woman’s beauty has been artistically depicted, poetically recited, melodically versed, and mythically fabled throughout humanity. From the ideas of femininity being associated with aesthetics comes the connection to the domestic realm and thus there can be made a further association to weakness. In a few short steps women are perceived as inferior. This deemed inferiority would be the basis of all further treatment and interaction with the female sex. Rousseau however takes the extreme of this to suggest that women use their beauty to gain power:
It is easy to see that the moral part of love is a factitious feeling, born of social usage, and enhanced by the women with much care and cleverness, to establish their empire, and put in power the sex which ought to obey (Rousseau).
Here he makes two key claims: that a woman can only have power through the manipulation of her looks, and that the female sex is inferior.
Wollstonecraft views love between a man and a woman as fleeting moments of passion. She deems it a “common passion” as it is a “mere appetite (that) becomes a personal and momentary gratification when the object is gained and the satisfied mind rests in enjoyment” (Wollstonecraft 29). This idea is as fundamental and prevalent today as ever and the sentiments reflect the nature of a man’s view toward intimate relations. A woman sees physical connection and affection as the ultimate sign of personal emotions. A woman wants and welcomes these outward displays because they represent an inner relationship that she truly desires. Wollstonecraft boldly asserts that on the contrary, a man looks at a woman with the passionate desire for these physical connections and with that as his end goal, employs whatever means necessary to satisfy himself.
In society, women are treated according to these inherent and innate characteristics of their sex, their beauty and their love, and the associated socially constructed meanings. The cycle is perpetuated through education. “But Rousseau, and most of the male writers who have followed his steps, have warmly inculcated that the whole tendency of female education out to be directed to one point: to render them pleasing” (Wollstonecraft 26). Wollstonecraft laments that a woman’s only education would be to make her more suitable to a man in her position as wife, housekeeper, and mother. She qualifies, “I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves” (Wollstonecraft 63). Wollstonecraft desires a world where a woman is educated with reason, in order to be the best person, citizen, mother, and wife.
A discussion of Mary Wollstonecraft would be remiss without a note on her controversial and negative comments directed at her own sex. Wollstonecraft’s syntax and language is the most obvious and is a physical dissociation between her and other women. Though she writes in the first person, referring to herself often as “I”, Wollstonecraft rarely ever refers to fellow women as “we” but rather more often as “they”. This subtle distancing subconsciously creates in the mind of the reader a distinction between her and women of her day. Additionally, when Wollstonecraft addresses specifically the female readers, her language becomes flowery and artificial as if to further muddle her connection to these women. It is these physical distinctions and the comments she makes about the rest of her gender that are a cause for hesitation among readers. The comments range from mild prodding to outright attacks on other women. She notes that fellow women have been known to “obtain power by unjust means” (Wollstonecraft 44) and that women are “cruel rivals” of one another in a competition for a “throne of beauty” (Wollstonecraft 48), to illustrate a few.
What has been called “feminist misogyny” is in actuality a perfect culmination of her argument. Often, she is deemed a hypocrite for turning against her gender and because according to her own writing, they are not culpable. Concurring with her words, women have been educated to submission. By this, her argument is thus that women cannot be held responsible for their own actions because men essentially control them. How can they “despise the very weakness they cherish” (Wollstonecraft 55)? She is showing the male readers the product of their design – a defective and inadequate creation that can take no blame for its faults.
Wollstonecraft wrote with a hope that one day her words would be unnecessary. Optimistically, she saw society as an ever-progressing body that, with the help of her ideals, could develop and mature into an optimal civilization. Unfortunately, I don’t see this as possible for our immediate posterity. Fortuitously, however, I think her true value is her exceptional talent for noting and condemning the actions and activities that are the cause of female detriment.
In her day, it was made very clear to women that their ultimate goal and purpose was to produce good citizens (read: men). Their education groomed them for marriage and the culture facilitated motherhood. Today, healthy heterosexual relationships are similarly impaired. In my society, women already enjoy or are in the process of gaining increased access to education, employment, healthcare, and income (though the former two still require significant work – the landscape is far more promising). Yet the personal relationships of my society look regrettably like those of Wollstonecraft.
Premarital sex has never been as common or publically accepted as it is today. Gone are the days of courtship and notions of “going steady”. There are dozens of new statuses that fit in between “single” to “in a relationship”. The hookup culture among teens to twenty-something’s is a new phenomenon and is perplexing in that it is as palpable as it is intangible. It’s a game of sorts where each player knows the unspoken rules and everyone has a different idea about what a victory would look like. Though much more can be expounded and later blogged about there is one aspect of today’s dating scene that all would agree on: it is commitment-free.
Again I call on Wollstonecraft’s wise words that impeccably describe the current situation at hand, “Passions are spurs to action, and open the mind; but they sink into mere appetites, become a personal and momentary gratification when the object is gained, and the satisfied mind rests in enjoyment.” Who benefits from not knowing whether or not the person you have been casually seeing is your significant other or just a friend with benefits? Who wins when all it takes to get a hookup is a couple flirty texts and picking up the bar tab? A simple cost-benefit analysis would suggest the winner to be the one who can get the most pleasure out of such an association while not having to sacrifice. The man wins every time because he can have a hookup for a different night every weekend and get congratulations and praise from his friends while a woman is a slut for sleeping with anyone who isn’t her official boyfriend.
The value of Wollstonecraft’s arguments is that they remain applicable to an evaluation of our civilization today. The past two generations alone have seen remarkable successes of the feminist movement. From suffrage to equal education to an increase in female employment, comparatively speaking women are making great strides. Yet in their personal relationships, they are not respected or treated equal. To use her words, women of today continue to miss the useful fruit of society while retaining all the follies and vices. According to Wollstonecraft’s model, our civilization has not yet reached its full potential. By the indicators and the signs that she emphasizes and condemns, this civilization has failed the female sex and therefore failed itself. Like Wollstonecraft, I too hold the hope that someday humanity will see the value in complete and true equality for all but in this present moment there is much work to be done. For this reason, her words remain relevant today and will continue to serve as reminders for generations to come until her vision for civilization is realized.
To conclude, Rousseau’s views of nature are unconvincing because they are limited. He looks at the world around him, sees the evil, and condemns it. He looks at the misogynist society he lives in and perpetuates it. Where Rousseau fails, Wollstonecraft prevails. “But the nature of the poison points out the anecdote” she writes, referring to the “poison” of her civilization. Wollstonecraft looked at her world and saw hope for the salvation of humanity. Though this is has not yet come to fruition because of modern dating culture, her opinions, observations, and interpretations on a woman’s place in society continue to be applicable today in the ongoing struggle for female political, social, and economic equality through a mutual respect in male-female relationships.
Letter 5 of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters. Personal View and Analysis
Letter 5 of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written during a Short Residence focuses on her travelling north up Sweden’s southwest coast alone without her child and their maid. Throughout the passage she does not mention that she is without her daughter and maid however through reading this letter it is quite clear she is alone as she continually says “I” not “we” like in other letters. For example, “I crossed the bridge” and “I waited to see ice” which highlights how she is travelling on her own. However, she is not always on her own as near the end of the letter she states that she has companions with her, even though she has not had a previous relationship with them before their travels which leads to her being thankful that they don’t snore.
I feel that in this extract Mary Wollstonecraft portrays herself as an independent and driven woman due to her being without her daughter and maid. I also find her to be driven in this extract because she states “Had I // travel in Sweden merely for pleasure // chosen the road to Stockholm” the reason I believe this emphasises her as driven is because she knows that she has come to Sweden to fulfil a duty and she is not letting anything distract her from that such as the much nicer scenery through Stockholm. Moreover, I think that this highlights her believe in feminism because she is showing clearly that women can do the same things as men such as adventures through countries for business purposes which links back to her beliefs of women having all the most important aspects the same as men as they can both complete this task of travelling alone without distractions which brings me back to how I feel she has portrayed herself as an independent and driven woman.
Throughout Letter 5 of Mary Wollstonecraft’s, Letters Written during a Short Residence she portrays her surroundings positively using words such as “picturesque” and “beauties” however then goes onto contradict herself by saying “detestable herrings which poisoned my pleasure”. It is as though she can see the beauty in her surroundings and can accept that they are nice to look at even though she feels that personally they ruin her pleasure as she can’t see what is so fascinating about the things around her.
Overall, I did not enjoy this passage as I found it difficult to understand the first time I read it, so I had to reread it a couple of times before I began to understand it more. However, once I began to understand it I did enjoy it. I found the adventure of Wollstonecraft in this passage to be very exciting as she is now travelling alone without her maid and daughter so everything that she is doing is purely just for herself even though she still had companions, I felt like she was experiencing more things due to being on her own.
The Rise of Women in Literature
“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” – G.D. Anderson
Before we start with the importance of women in literature, it is said that women themselves were the only champions of themselves.
In the “A Vindication on the rights of women” by Marry Wollstonecraft made a lot of women realize their worth and encouraged them to publish their work. In the 70s and 80s, it highlighted on the works of women.
The Press dedicated itself completely in publishing the lost and ignored works of women. In recent years a greater emphasis on intersectionality has encouraged exploration into the relationship between race, gender, religion, and class to even further prove the importance of the acknowledgment of the place of marginalized groups in literature.
The rise of women in literature started with Jane Austen and her novels. Jane Austen was born on 16th December 1775. Jane Austen was an English novelist and was known for her 6 major novels. Her plots usually explored more on the dependency of women on marriage and economic security. She became one of the known writers after the publication of “Sense and sensibility (1811)”, “Pride and Prejudice (1813)”, “Emma (1815)”, “Mansfield Park (1814)”.
Most of her novels were rarely out and were published anonymously which brought a little fame during her lifetime. . Self-delusion or the attempt to fool other people has always been her object of her wit. Jane Austen uses Irony to provoke people and to make bitter observations.
During the time of Jane Austen’s Career the Romanticism had reached its highest peak. Jane Austen always supported the traditional values and the established norms and would view human condition in the comic spirit. Austen’s works possess a timeless quality, which makes her stories and themes as relevant today as they were two hundred years ago.
In Today’s world young women have a variety of options in front of them regarding their future such as – the person they will get married to, to go to college of their choice, and follow any career that may interest them, or live independently. In Jane Austen’s period young women did not have all these varieties. Although the girls of upper class and middle class would be sent to school. Similarly, the women in 19th century were not allowed to have higher education as men said that the only job of a woman is to look beautiful for their husbands and cook.
A woman’s formal education was limited because her job opportunities were limited — and vice versa.
The society during the Jane Austen’s time couldn’t take it if woman entered profession such as medicines, law, writer etc. Although few woman from upper class and middle class had some advantages. And if a woman is unmarried then she would remain depended on her relatives.
Some social historians have depicted “woman’s place” as very low, indeed: with few legal and economic rights or even receiving little respect, women can be seen as oppressed victims of a patriarchal society, subordinate first to their fathers and, then, to their husbands who had, of course, been selected by their fathers; some late eighteenth century authors of advice to girls and young women regarded women’s minds as limited in reason and not to be overtaxed with serious, intellectual education. In Jane Austen’s novels, the pictures of women and their lives are very different from the pictures painted of women as suppressed, passive victims of their society. Jane Austen’s heroines are intelligent; they exercise reason; they are held in high esteem by the men whom they love, who love them, and whom they marry.
Basically the women were not allowed to do anything. The women were not allowed to work or to vote. They would make the young girls get married soon. Usually a women’s legal protection and her status are vested with their fathers but after she gets married, all her legal status gets disappeared. Her children, her family, and the life she lives are all under control of their husbands. And if in case she were widowed , she would have no rights or control on her children’s unless her husband named her as a guardian, and if she is separated from her husband she is disgrace in the eyes of the society.
A 1770 statute passed by Parliament reveals some of the attitudes toward women at this time:
All women of whatever age, rank, profession, or degree, whether virgin maid or widow, that shall from and after such Act impose upon, seduce, and betray into matrimony any of His Majesty’s subjects by means of scent, paints, cosmetics, washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, or bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law now in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanors, and that the marriage upon conviction shall stand null and void.
A woman’s economic independence was further restricted because of the stigma attached to a woman who earned money through working. An unmarried woman could become a governess, but this was a position beneath the social rank and status of middle and upper class young women and was thus regarded as humiliating.
However, by 18th century writing as a profession for women had developed steadily. The entire woman started writing novels, poems and as the novels increased in popularity some women writers started living independently and in some cases few woman earned a lot of money for their works. For Jane Austen, as the daughter of clergyman, there would have been no possibility of her owning a small business – or being a midwife – but it was possible for her to become a professional writer of fiction – and, respectably, from this work to earn money, albeit, a very small amount.
For most of the women, marriage was the only choice they had in front of them in order to have economic security and respectable fulfilling life. As we have seen in Jane Austen’s novels that the only choice a woman has in front of her is marriage which insures a woman’s place, her future and her successful future.
In Jane Austen’s novels, these issues of “woman’s place” – economic security, proper marriage, and sound education of girls and young women – are represented realistically – sometimes with sympathy and approval, sometimes with wit, satire, or harsh criticism, but never with didacticism, for Jane Austen’s intellect and artistic genius effectively blended these topics both thematically and aesthetically so that each novel tells the distinctive story of an individual young woman who achieves rational self-awareness, who learns to make sound moral choices, and who chooses a husband whom she loves and esteems and with whom she will live a happy, intimate, compatible, and economically secure life which enriches their society as well.
Jane Austen is the famous authors in western cannons.
After Jane Austen, the most dominant author was found to be was Virginia Woolf (25th January 1882- 28th March 1941)
Virginia Woolf is considered to be one of the known modernists of the 20th century and was the first to use stream of consciousness as a narrative device. She was homeschooled for most of her childhood and she started writing professionally in 1900.
“The Voyage Out” was her first novel that was published in 1915 through the Hogarth press, which was a publishing house which she established with her husband Leonard Woolf. Her major works were – Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Light House (1927), Orlando (1928), and a long essay – A Room of one’s own (1929) with its dictum which said “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”.
Virginia’s works are read all over the world and her works has been translated in more than 50 languages. Woolf became one of the central subjects of the 1970s movement of feminist criticism, and her works have since garnered much attention and widespread commentary for “inspiring feminism”
Woolf believed that to break free of a patriarchal society that women writers needed a “room of their own” to develop and often fantasized about an “Outsider’s Society” where women writers would create a virtual private space for themselves via their writings to develop a feminist critique of society.
Virginia Woolf dedicated most of her works to the woman. In one of her famous essays “A Room of one’s own” she shows the discrimination of woman in humorous fashion. In this essay she talks about the University scholars who are attending a dinner and are served with the most delicious food ever whereas the woman are served with the boring food although both men and women hold same position their treatment is far from equal.
Virginia felt that this scenario showed the daily life of woman and the problems they go through everyday of their lives. This is one of the main reasons why she stood up for women’s right and to bring justice to them. She blames men for the most of the events that took place in her life. With the inherent taste of a novelist Mrs. Woolf chooses to speak through an “I” who is and yet is not herself.
Mrs. Woolf said that there were reasons why there were only few achievements among woman novelists throughout the centuries. She said that they failed because they were financially not dependent, they were not intellectual free, and they were not allowed the fullest worldly experience.
The woman novelist is nowadays sex-conscious; and the artist can no more be sex-conscious than sex-inhibited. The great creative mind must be androgynous; and Mrs. Woolf interprets Coleridge’s famous definition to mean, not sympathetic with the other sex (which effects a creative division) but harmoniously bisexual in comprehension (which affects a creative fusion).
After Virginia Woolf, one of the most prominent contemporary female writers was Maya Angelou (April 4th 1928- May 28th 2014)
Maya Angelou is one of the renowned voices of our time. Angelou is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil right activist. She faced a lot of brutality of racial discrimination but also learnt the unshakable faith and values of the African – American Family, Community and culture. She took an active participation in the civil rights movements with Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X.
After the publication of “I know why the caged bird sings” she publically discussed about her personal life to the people. Her works are considered to be the defense of black culture. Even today her works are used in schools and universities all around the world.
At the age of 8, while she was staying with her mother, Maya Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She later informed her brother who later informed the entire family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed only for a day. 4 days after his release he was murdered by Angelou’s uncles. After experiencing this entire incident Maya Angelou became mute for almost 5 years and believed, where she had stated that “I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone…”
Maya Angelou later credits a teacher and a friend Mrs. Bertha Flowers who helping her out to speak again. Mrs. Bertha Flowers introduced Maya Angelou to authors like Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, authors who would affect her life and as well as her career.
Maya Angelou also reflected upon the racial discrimination that she faced and for the people who faced and are still facing. She spoke about the white people (Caucasian) who would trouble and humiliate black people. She spoke about how black people underwent through slavery, discrimination, segregation, hegemony, prejudice and stereotype and class conflicts.
Maya Angelou’s work became one of the most useful literatures in order to trace the racism in America in 16th century until 19th century. Her works also shows her emotions and the ignorance of white people towards her race.
She says that slavery is one of the painful parts in one’s life. Maya Angelou continuously stresses upon the slavery and racial discrimination in her poems which has a different tone of emotions such as – anger, sad, guilty.
Maya Angelou’s novel will forever be remembered and read with admiration. Her most famous book I know why the Caged Bird sings an autobiography she wrote in 1969 that tells the story of Angelou and her brother’s struggles growing up. It was a bestseller and it touches ground on controversial topics such as racism, rape and sexuality. It is also shows the author’s journey while seeking self-independence and getting to know herself.
The above information shows us how the women in that Era had to fight for their rights and how difficult it was for them. All the three women has shown their hard work tremendously and stood for the rights of woman and made the woman realize their worth. From Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf and from Virginia Woolf to Maya Angelou. The only thing that was constant throughout their times were the dedication, the dedication to become something, the dedication to work hard, the dedication to help woman, and the dedication to not to become a burden on anyone.
Women have not only seen the struggles in the society to have equal opportunities but they have also seen their fair share of highs and lows in literature.
However, in the process they have impacted generations of writers not only female but male as well to look up to them so that they can relate to them, and a soaring towards building a legacy of their own.