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Writing and Women

  • ... a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction ...

  • Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.

  • This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room.

  • We [women] have borne and bred and washed and taught, perhaps to the age of six or seven years, the one thousand six hundred and twenty-three million human beings who are, according to statistics, at present in existence, and that ... takes time.

  • ... women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. ... Women, then, have not had a dog's chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own.

  • The indifference of the world which Keats and Flaubert and other men of genius have found so hard to bear was in her case [the woman writer's] not indifference but hostility. The world did not say to her as it said to them, Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What's the good of your writing?

  • No matter how successful, beloved, influential her work was, when a woman author dies, nine times out of ten, she gets dropped from the lists, the courses, the anthologies, while the men get kept. ... If she had the nerve to have children, her chances of getting dropped are higher still. ... So if you want your writing to be taken seriously, don't marry and have kids, and above all, don't die. But if you have to die, commit suicide. They approve of that.

  • Her work, I really think her work / is finding what her real work is / and doing it, / her work, her own work, / her being human, / her being in the world.

    • Ursula K. Le Guin,
    • "The Writer on, and at, Her Work," in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • Can you write a book and have children at the same time? Yes, if you're content to do it very very slowly.

  • She didn't write it. She wrote it, but she shouldn't have. She wrote it, but look what she wrote about. She wrote it, but 'she' isn't really an artist and 'it' isn't really serious, of the right genre — i.e., really art. She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it. She wrote it, but it's only interesting/included in the canon for one, limited reason. She wrote it, but there are very few of her.

  • ... I wished critics would judge me as an author, not as a woman.

    • Charlotte Brontë,
    • to George Henry Lewes (1850), in Muriel Spark, ed., The Letters of The Brontës: A Selection ()
  • Compared to men writers of like distinction and years of life, few women writers have had lives of unbroken productivity, or leave behind a 'body of work.' Early beginnings, then silence; or clogged late ones (foreground silences); long periods between books (hidden silences); characterize most of us.

  • It might have happened sooner had I had a room of my own and fewer children, but somehow I doubt it. For as I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time and space are those who have given me something to say.

  • Why was I born beneath two curses, / To bear children and to write verses? / Either one fecundity / Were heavy enough destiny. / But all my life is penalty / From the two sides of me.

    • Anna Wickham,
    • "New Eve," in R.D. Smith, ed., The Writings of Anna Wickham ()
  • Woman's intellect, keen, brilliant, and fearless, is rapidly permeating all departments of literature, and making its influence felt upon the mind of the age ...

  • With the birth of each child, you lose two novels.

  • Our Author ... / Sends me with dismal voice, and lenthen'd phiz, / Humbly to own one dreadful fault of his: / A fault, in modern Authors not uncommon, / It is, — now don't be angry — He's — a woman.

  • During the long drag of years before our youngest child went to school, my love for my family and my need to write were in acute conflict. The problem was really that I put two things first. My husband and children came first. So did my writing. Bump.

  • To be a woman and a writer / is double mischief, for the world will slight her / who slights 'the servile house,' and who would rather / make odes than beds.

    • Dilys Laing,
    • "Sonnet to a Sister in Error," Collected Poems ()
  • I was gravely warned by some of my female acquaintances that no woman could expect to be regarded as a lady after she had written a book.

    • Lydia Maria Child,
    • 1824, in Carolyn L. Karcher, The First Woman in the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria Child ()
  • Women writers lift themselves up from the depths; as they rise, each brings with her what she is able to carry.

  • There are enough women to do the childbearing and the childrearing. I know of none who can write my books.

  • [Preface to second edition:] ... I am satisfied that if a book is a good one, it is so whatever the sex of the author may be.

  • As the following history is the product of a female pen, I tremble for the terrible hazard it must run in venturing into the world, as it may very possibly suffer, in many opinions, without perusing it; I therefore humbly move for its having the common chance of a criminal, at least to be properly examined, before it is condemned ...

  • Men who can, when they wish to write a document, shut themselves up for days with their thoughts and their books, know little of what difficulties a woman must surmount to get off a tolerable production.

    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
    • letter to Susan B. Anthony (1853), in Theodore Stanton and Harriot Stanton Blatch, eds., Elizabeth Cady Stanton As Revealed in Her Letters Diary and Reminiscences, vol. 2 ()
  • If you're a woman writer, sometime, somewhere, you will be asked: Do you think of yourself as a writer first, or as a woman first? Look out. Whoever asks this hates and fears both writing and women.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • [Epilogue:] As for you half wits, you unthinking tribe, / We'll let you see, what e'er besides we do, / How artfully we copy some of you: / And if you're drawn to the life, pray tell me then, / Why women should not write as well as men.

  • Anyone who works at home, particularly a woman, is expected to also run the household and be a parent. The family tends to think, 'Oh, she's not really working, so it doesn't matter if she does it today or doesn't do it today — if I need her to go shopping for shoes, she will do it. So what if she doesn't work today.' That, unfortunately, has remained true through all these years. And, even now, as a successful writer, I think the family still tends to feel that way — 'So what if she doesn't work today.'

  • ... while there are 'women writers' there are not, and have never been, 'men writers.' This is an empty category, a class without specimens; for the noun 'writer' — the very verb 'writing' — always implies masculinity.

    • Joyce Carol Oates,
    • "(Woman) Writer: Theory and Practice," (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities ()
  • The dilemma for women — writing after everything else was finished — has prevented women from reaching their literary potential for centuries.

  • Writers, and particularly female writers, have to fight for the conditions they need to work ...

  • There are many women who write as they think they should write — to imitate men and make a place for themselves in literature.

    • Marguerite Duras,
    • in Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron, eds, New French Feminisms ()
  • [Children] use up the same part of my head as poetry does. To deal with children is a matter of terrific imaginative identification. And the children have to come first. It's no use putting off their evening meal for two months.

    • Libby Houston,
    • in Cheris Kramarae and Paula A. Treichler, A Feminist Dictionary ()
  • ... men have been in charge of according value to literature, and ... they have found the contributions of their own sex immeasurably superior.

  • I am obnoxious to each carping tongue / Who says my hand a needle better fits, / A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong, / For such despite they cast on female wits: / If what I do prove well, it won't advance, / They'll say it's stol'n, or else it was by chance.

    • Anne Bradstreet,
    • prologue, "The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America" (1650), in John Harvard Ellis, ed, The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse ()
  • Getting away from being 'a good girl' is important because it's impossible to be a 'good girl' and a writer at the same time.

    • Lynne Sharon Schwartz,
    • in Mickey Pearlman and Katherine Usher Henderson, A Voice of One's Own: Conversations With America's Writing Women ()
  • Anonymous: Prolific female author. Has written hundreds of thousands of books, articles, poems, essays, memos, broadsides, and treatises. Under this name many women for centuries have written, published, or produced art, either deliberately to avoid the problems and punishments awaiting the woman artist or by default because their names were lost or forgotten.

    • Paula A. Treichler,
    • in Cheris Kramarae and Paula A. Treichler, A Feminist Dictionary ()