Summer Book Review #21: A Room of One’s Own

“Did you post about Marissa Mayer, YAHOO’s newly appointed CEO?” asked my husband late last week.   For those out of the news vortex Mayer is expecting her first child in October after assuming the role of YAHOO’s CEO July 16, 2012.  She shared the following with Fortune’s Patricia Sellers, “my maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.” I remember starting conference calls at 4 weeks into my first maternity leave.  A seemingly effortless commitment when I confirmed my call schedule pre-delivery…..

Do you remember my post about Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic Monthly article, “Why women still can’t have it all,” featured in Novofemina’s Summer Book Review #17: Basic Black?   Slaughter unearthed many topics in her piece not the least of which is that ‘success’ is tied closely to ‘controlling the schedule.’ Slaughter congratulated Mayer via the press saying that her article’s theory was upheld by Mayer’s announcement: “only superhuman, rich and in-charge” ladies can have it all.

This swirl played interestingly against this week’s book, Virginia Woolf‘s A Room Of One’s Own.   Published in October 1929,  the book offers an interesting view into 19th century England.  Few women were educated, including Woolf herself, and women had only recently won the right to vote or to own property.

For those unfamiliar with the book, A Room of One’s Own is a compilation of lectures given by Woolf about the role of Women in Fiction.  In short, Woolf believes that women are absent both as authors and as protagonists.   To rectify the situation Woolf comments that one only needs, “money and a room of one’s own.” (Room of One’s Own, pg 108)   She later states that “allowing a generous margin for symbolism, money stands for the power to contemplate, a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself.”  (Room of One’s Own, pg 106) 

I’ve been drawn to this book for years because of its title.  Is there something inside, locked in a room of one’s own?   Woolf’s narrative reminded me of Eleanor Roosevelt’s, It’s Up to the Women, written only a few years after.   In both they implore women of the time to step forward, to reach for what matters to them.   Sounds timeless.  I thought a few comments were worth repeating for those of us in transition:

  • Avoid measurement:  Woolf challenges us to overcome the folly of our measurement society.  “It is the most futile of all occupations, to submit to the decrees of the measurers.”   (Room of One’s Own, pg 106)   
  • Be you:  In last week’s The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin struggled daily with ‘being Gretchen‘.  Almost one hundred years earlier Woolf offers, “it is much more important to be oneself than anything else.”
  • Have courage:  Woolf seems angry about the status of women in society and in fiction.  She admonishes her listeners with, “there is no arm to cling to.”  (Room of One’s Own, pg 114)   She offers that even if the outcome is poverty and obscurity it is still more worthwhile to pursue interests than to inhabit a space as a muted participant.

Mayer and Woolf may occupy the same realm for women of their time.  Provocative. Exceptionally skilled.  Human.

I wish I could share with Mayer that I don’t recall a thing about those conference calls 4 weeks  into my 12 week maternity leave….except for a small child, peacefully asleep close by.

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One response to “Summer Book Review #21: A Room of One’s Own

  1. Pingback: 2012 Summer Book Review Finale: What if? | NovoFemina

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