Woolf’s concern about the difficulties women face in a male-dominated world is expressed with force and vigor in her extended essay A Room of One’s Own. Elaborating on her talks on “Women in Fiction,” which she had given at two British women’s colleges in 1928, she seeks to present certain facts about the treatment of women through the centuries and to show how patterns established long ago still prevail in modern times. Children, housework, and family obligations have deprived women of privacy and prevented them from earning a living, while social attitudes have approved their continued dependence on men for material necessities and their acceptance of roles as household servants. Though freedom and equality for women have increased considerably since 1929 in both England and America, the ideas Woolf promotes here, fundamental to modern feminist thinking, were radical—even shocking to some—at the time the book was written.
Retaining the tone and style of a casual lecturer, Woolf intends neither to preach nor to scold but to discuss some of her observations, exploring their implications at length. Her position can be stated quite briefly: In order to achieve an adequate sense of personal identity and the fulfillment of her intellectual potential with dignity and joy, a woman must command sufficient financial resources (money) to support herself and adequate privacy (a room with a lock on the door) to permit and promote mental activity. These two keys to...
(The entire section is 612 words.)