Celebrating Women’s History Month
Jessica Holifield commemorates Women’s History Month by celebrating their significant contribution to literature. Who are the female literary greats and why?
Women’s History Month aims to address contemporary gender inequalities while celebrating how far women have come in their battle for liberation. I am a strong believer in the arts acting as a means to encourage social change. With that being said, throughout this month I have been reflecting on some of my favourite feminist writers and the relevance of their work in the 21st Century.
Despite writing nearly four centuries ago, I feel as though there is still much to take from Cavendish’s The Blazing World. Her novel is satirical and based on contemporary male scientists with amusing undertones. In her note to the reader, Cavendish writes that she does not wish to be like any of history’s famous men, rather, she will be herself. Her work is important because even today women are dismissed in STEM subjects and professions: according to STEM Graduates, only 13 per cent of the overall UK STEM workforce are women. WISE is a charity that seeks to address this diversity imbalance within the workplace.
Arguably the most neglected Brontë sister, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall sheds light on the horrors of mental, emotional and financial abuse. This topic was a taboo in the 1850s and although society has developed, abusive relationships still remain difficult to talk about, and women who experience them often lack the support they deserve. Charities such as Recognise RED, which was founded at the University of Exeter helps create awareness around abuse and harassment. Wildfell Hall demonstrates that people can heal from the scars of abuse and go on to live a happy life.
I really enjoyed reading A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas. Woolf’s style of writing flows nicely without taking away from the seriousness of what she is saying. A Room of One’s Own highlights how difficult it can be for women to get into the arts. Woolf applauds some of her favourite writers who she thought adopted an androgynous narrative voice such as Emily Brontë and Jane Austen. Furthermore, I like how she draws upon her own experience and tells her readership directly that, ‘sometimes women do like women’, something that other writers and feminists were not doing at the time.
I like how she draws upon her own experience and tells her readership directly that, ‘sometimes women do like women’, something that other writers and feminists were not doing
Thankfully, Women’s History Month allots more space in our media to women’s issues. However, we cannot afford to be complacent: according to a survey conducted by UN Women UK, 97 per cent of women aged 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment. On top of this, Covid-19 has pushed many families back into 1950s-esque gender roles, with women carrying the bulk of domestic chores. Feminism is still necessary in 2021 and by looking back to past writers we can recognise its value for them. I hope our media outlets continue to give these issues the attention and coverage they deserve throughout the rest of the year.