Posted by: annaleefinch11 | January 29, 2014

History and Women


I don’t know how many of you are aware who Virginia Woolf is, but she is one of the best writer’s I have ever read.  My favorite essay she wrote was “A Room of One’s Own.”  Woolf was ahead of her time in the fact she believed women could do just as well as men, if not better.

I choose this quote by her because I found it every interesting.  Woolf pointed out in several pieces of her work how women had to hide their intellect, since this was a time period where women did not speak unless they were spoken to.  Women were not allowed to have thoughts or ideas, most women were looked down on for thinking at all.  During this time period a woman didn’t need to think; she was supposed to make sure her husband and children were happy and that was all.  Who needs thoughts and ideas when your family should be taking up all your time, right?  But Woolf believed women should think, they should write, and have a voice.  In her essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” I remember her talking about how women had to hide their diaries from their husbands because men did not want women to write things down. Woolf pointed out how words are powerful things and men knew that.  She discussed how she thought men believed women having thoughts were a bad thing because women might start discussing their ideas among each other.  If this occurred, then women might join together and turn against men.

To me, this quote is saying that because women had to hide their ideas and their writing, probably most things that did not have a name signed to it probably came from a woman since women were unable to show that they had thoughts.  This quote made me laugh a little to myself, (not in a creepy,) but because I never thought of seeing something signed “anonymous” in that way before.  Now that I think about it, how interesting would it be if most things that are signed that way were really written by women?


  1. This quote and subsequent review reminded me of a quote by Virginia Woolf that I personally find motivating, but also goes along with our class discussions and readings. Virginia Woolf was quoted as saying: “It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” Like said in the review, many women often hide their intellect because being intelligent may sometimes be understood as being conceited or over-confident or it was just socially unacceptable. She was an advocate for standing up for yourself, but also delicately portrayed her beliefs by not being “pushy” or “overly feminist”. The concept of creating a world that women are in leadership positions that men would also be comfortable with is a huge step in breaking the barriers of gender inequality in the workplace whether that be a large corporation or an writer’s desk. I personally believe that Virginia Woolf has done this. She is educated, intelligent, and strong, but does not force her beliefs on men or women, and because of this, is a widely accepted, successful writer. Virginia Woolf, unlike many other women, did not become idle in her dreams, but stood up for herself and became a successful woman because of it.

  2. I am a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, and some of her quotes have begun standing out to me since enrolling in this course. One in particular is: “A woman knows very well that, though a wit sends her his poems, praises her judgment, solicits her criticism, and drinks her tea, this by no means signifies that he respects her opinions, admires her understanding, or will refuse, though the rapier is denied him, to run through the body with his pen.” This stood out to me due to its basic concept that women work hard and do many things for men, yet they may not respect her at all. This concept completely baffles me as women are expected to respect men, it is pretty much engrained in us to do so, yet women do not always receive the same respect in return.

    This immediately makes me think of the infamous “housewife’s fatigue” that was discussed in our Friedan reading of the Problem that has No Name. With this, women were practically denied any sort of role other than as a homemaker and a mother and wife. If she had any sort of problems, the men immediately dismissed them and told the women how lucky they were to be a mother/wife. I believe that this lack of respect from men is what Woolf was targeting, as well as the feminine chains that were tying women down at the time, and still continue to do. Women must take care of a home – cooking, cleaning, children – and still experience disrespect from their husbands. Whoever said that a man is the king of his castle was mistaken – the woman is clearly the queen of the castle and should be treated like one!

  3. I too never thought of “anonymous” in this light before, but I believe Virginia Woolf is right! With the oppression of women, specifically at that time, signing something anonymously was the only way for a woman to have her ideas known. I can only imagine the feeling an anonymous female writer had after seeing men read her work with respect, not knowing it was written by a female. Virginia Woolf was, and still is, an influential woman who has helped shape woman’s history. This quote also has made me wonder if there were more women, like Virginia Woolf, during that time that choose to lead anonymously.
    This quote also makes me think and reflect on how we have come such a long way from this time. In comparison, women are now appreciated and respected so much more and their ideas are valued. Yes, there is still progress to be made, but looking back makes me hopeful for what is to come.

  4. This quote is accurate in depicting the past with women. It’s unfortunate that for women to express their ideas and stories they had to do so anonymously or else they would be shunned by society. Back in the Jane Austen era and even up into the 50’s, women who would express themselves were deemed difficult and would not find a “decent” husband. Some of the greatest works done by women was published anonymously. Jane Austen’s works are the prime example of women who expressed themselves anonymously. It was in her death that she was revealed as the author of her novels. It’s insane to think of how she had to hide her incredible talent from society till death for fear of ridicule and judgement while her novels were decently popular in her era. Besides Jane Austen there were many Romantic era poets that published anonymously whom were suspected to be women.
    It’s incredible to look back and think of the numerous anonymously written works and wonder how many women did not get credit for their work. Especially when we have countless women now who write non-anonymously and have a considerable amount of influence. But maybe I’m thinking about this the wrong way because women in the past wrote just to escape rather than for credit.

  5. I love this quote by Virginia Woolf because it really does make you think about how different things were back in that era for women. When we compare women in society today to women in society in earlier eras, it’s amazing to see how far that we have come, but we all know that we still have such a long way to go. I definitely do think that things that were written long ago by women were probably often signed as anonymous because of they way women’s opinions were devalued by most men during that time. I think that most women were too afraid to share their own opinions to the public because they thought that men would not approve of women having such thoughts, or maybe because they were afraid that their voices may not even be heard anyway. It makes you wonder what kind of opportunities Virginia Woolf has opened up for women, especially as a result of speaking her mind since that was so uncommon for women. I have no doubt in my mind that she did have a significant contribution to helping women get to where we are now in society because, after all, we did have to start somewhere!

  6. I really love this quote, because although it seems obvious for that time, it is not something that I ever actively considered. For the women that did speak out, I would think that they would offer ideas that were worth the risk. I can not imagine putting my ideas out there and not being able to take credit for them. This also reminds me of why some sororities snap instead of clapping. In order for women to meet and discuss their ideas, it would have to be in seceret. For this reason, sorority women needed to be discrete and quiet which is why they adopted snapping instead of clapping which is much louder.

  7. This post reminds me of something I was thinking in class one day. I am SO HAPPY I live in this time. If a man told me I shouldn’t talk or shouldn’t have a thought on something, I would be furious. We always talk about the gender gap and how that will affect our careers, but I don’t see it much. I have never felt my opinion mattered less because I was a women, and that’s a great feeling.
    I like this quote because it hints at how prominent women have always been even when men tried to smothered them. It’s sad that ideas in that time would be devalued just because they came from a women. But on the other hand, at least women were still thinking and putting their ideas out there to be heard, even if it had to be signed anonymous. It makes me wonder how many anonymous quotations really were from women!

  8. I have read that there were so many books and writing pieces that were published in the 19th and early 20th centuries by females who had to use male surnames. This is because if a man knew that what he was reading was written by a woman, he would most likely just discard it. I think that the concept of being anonymous not only related to published works, but also to a woman’s everyday life back in Virginia Woolf’s time. The women were expected to be the “homemaker” and if a woman deviated from that established gendered role, the male would feel threatened. Many men during that time didn’t want women to have a voice and a lot of it stemmed from the fact that they didn’t want to feel personally threatened by well-educated and well-versed women. I like that Virginia Woolf was able to break the gendered norms of her time period and actually shed light on what it meant to be a woman. It is women like this that pave the way for future female empowerment.

  9. I think this quote is interesting. It is so amazing to see how women could not speak their minds. It is striking to see just how courageous these women were to speak their mind at a time where there were serious repercussions for these actions. For so long women were deprived of these inalienable rights. It honestly was not that long ago that women have equal representation within leadership. It puts into perspective for me the reason why this topic of women representation in leadership is such a pressing issue. Throughout this semester I have wondered why this topic is important and questioned whether or not this issue is still important in todays day and age. But what this quote makes me think about is that the reason why women who are in leadership and across the world are fighting for this is because they have experienced first hand discrimination of women, they have seen their parents experience this type of discrimination so this issue is a personal issue. An issue that means a lot more to them then statistics of how many women CEOs there are. To women it is about standing up for the discrimination they have been apart of, or they have seen others that they know and love have to endure. I think at times with our generation, or with me in particular I feel as if I am looking at this issue of women and leadership the wrong way because I have not experienced it myself. In my mind everyone is equal and women can make it on top, but the reality of it is, women are still experiencing discrimination and they are underrepresented. I do think we have come a long way but I see now why this is a matter of the heart so to speak. Women have come a long way and I am so thankful that we now have the right to speak as we please, and share our thoughts and opinions openly. And these blogs are one example.

  10. Whenever I saw ‘anonymous’ after a quote, I never really thought about gender. I think that is kind of cool, and a really unique opportunity. When we look at these quotes where a great number of them could be women, but we don’t think about gender when reading the quote. There isn’t a chance for bias because the gender is unknown and not a factor. I think it would be really interesting to look at the quotes and then ask people whether they thought a male or female said it. I think it could give some insight into the exact differences between men and women. I personally don’t think there would be many differences. From personal experience, when I look at anonymous quotes, none of them have ever jumped out at me as distinctly male or female. I just took them in for what they meant. I think this gives a window into the ideal world, where you can look at something someone says and judge what they said without taking into account gender, or any other category.

  11. Annalee, I LOVE this quote. This is the first time that I’ve seen it, but I have truly never thought about something signed as anonymous more often being from a woman, if not always. Nor did I know that women had to hide their diaries. It really makes you see how far women have actually come since those times, and how lucky we are to be able to share quotes and not be banished by a man, or something as idiotic as that. I am really curious now as to how these women got these quotes out there, because even if it is anonymous they have to submit it to someone somehow! I’m also curious how history might have been different if in the past, when we were making HUGE discoveries that still change the way our life is today, if that process could’ve been altered if women were seen as equals, or at least able to share their thoughts and ideas without harsh consequences. There are so many beautiful and thought provoking anonymous quotes that I have come across from history, and it saddens me that women were not able to share these thoughts for themselves. I really really love this quote. I think I’m going to have to look up Virginia Woolf quotes and readings now!

  12. This is a very interesting thought about all of the anonymous works that exist. I never thought about it, but when reading something anonymous in high school, I probably would have guessed that it was by a man if asked. I think I also assumed that it was harder for a woman to get something published. If I was reading an anonymous work from 200 years ago, I likely assumed that a woman did not have the means to make sure that her work was widely read. I would love to go back and look at the anonymous works I’ve come across with the new awareness that the author may have been a woman.

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