First Published Hogarth Press, 1929
Asked to give a lecture on Women and Fiction at Cambridge University in 1928, Woolf set out to attribute the historical dominance of male fiction writers to the lowly position of women in society and the lack of “a room of their own”. In a footnote, she states the “strange and almost inexplicable fact that in Athena’s city, where women were kept in almost Oriental suppression as odalisques or drudges, the stage should yet have produced figures like Clytemnestra and Cassandra, Atossa and Antigone, Phèdre and Medea, and all the other heroines who dominate play after play of the “misogynist” Euripides. But the paradox of this world where in real life a respectable woman could hardly show her face alone in the street, and yet on the stage woman equals or surpasses man, has never been satisfactorily explained. In modern tragedy the same predominance exists.”
She goes on to say that while in the literary imagination woman is “of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.”
Reader, if like me, you find the first few pages a little slow, carry on for the reward is great!