A Room of Ones Own

by Virginia Woolf


Essay 6 chapters Published in 1929

Stream of Consciousness - unnamed narrator because “it is not important"

"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she has to write fiction”

Tells us how women need to be free from interruptions, need financial and intellectual independence. How women have been historically excluded from things men easily have access to.


Mary Beton


Mary Seton

Mrs Beton’s friend

Judith Shakespeare

Fictional sister of Shakespeare

Mary Carmichael

fictional writer whose book is found in the library; narrator finds many faults in the book

Real People Referenced

William Shakespeare Jane Austen, George Eliot, and the Brontë sisters Lady Winchilsea Margaret Cavendish Aphra Behn


Intellectual freedom depends on material things Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom And woman always have been poor, not for 200 years but from the beginning of time. Women have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry. This is why I am laid so much focus on money and a room of one’s own.

Chapter 1 - Oxbridge and Interruptions

The narrator, a fictionalized version of Woolf: visits Oxbridge College
Narrator had to present on “Women and Fiction” reflects on the different opportunities and privileges that men and women have in education and society, is walking on grass when she is interrupted by a Beadle 1 who says she is not allowed there; reserved only for fellows and scholars

Fish metaphor - She says that ideas are like fishes, she drops her thoughts (fishing line) to catch a fish but is interrupted, losing her thought

just as she seems to be on the verge of an insight, her thinking is cut off—usually by an authority figure trying to keep her in her place

Dejected, goes to library. Not let in unless accompanied by a male. Ate at cafeteria, food was amazeballs unlike the one at Fernham. Compares both.

says ideas are not like how we think of them, the sudden glow of a light bulb, but a result of “rational intercourse”––intellectual exchange––that takes place in settings such as the college. Where women are either not allowed or restricted

Chapter 2: London, Library

The narrator goes to London and visits the British Library. She finds many books written by men about women, but none by women themselves. No books about their daily lives. She wonders what women’s lives were like in history and invents the story of Judith Shakespeare, a talented sister of William Shakespeare who is oppressed by her family and society and dies by suicide. She shows how women’s genius has been wasted and silenced

Chapter 3: Examining past Writers

The narrator examines the works of women writers in the nineteenth century, such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, and the Brontë sisters. She praises their achievements despite the difficulties they faced. She analyzes how their gender and social class influenced their style and perspective. She argues that women need to have a room of their own, both literally and figuratively, to write fiction

Chapter 4: Winchilsea, Cavendish, and Behn

The narrator continues to explore the legacy of women writers and their relation to tradition. She says that women need to be financially independent but even that doesn’t help fully. Says their anger bitters their work. Anger that they are not given the same privileges as men. Anger that they are excluded.

Lady Winchilsea was a noblewoman but even her writing did not get respect because it was bitter Margaret Cavendish, too, failed because of the same reason. Aphra Behn - one of the first woman writers to have made money. Middle class. All women owe her for paving the way.

They don’t have any access to a “common sentence,” that men have access to, the shared rhythm and form that unites male writers in a collective

Chapter 5: Chloe Liked Olivia

The narrator reviews a novel by a contemporary woman writer named Mary Carmichael. She criticizes her for not having the rythm of Jane Austen. Of the author trying hard not to be typecast as “sentimental”.

Mary Carmichael writes “Chloe liked Olivia” which is monumental - it takes away heteronormativity - says out loud what was only whispered - huge social leap

She argues that women need to express their sexuality and emotions to write fiction.

Chapter 6: Androgynous

Woolf concludes her argument by exploring the idea of an androgynous mind that can transcend the limitations of gender and create great works of literature.

She is inspired by the sight of a man and a woman getting into a taxi together, which symbolizes the harmony and unity of the sexes.

She cites Coleridge’s theory that a great mind is both masculine and feminine, and that such a balance is evident in Shakespeare’s genius.

She contrasts this ideal with the sex-consciousness of her own age, which she blames for the rise of fascism and the decline of literature.

She criticizes male writers who are obsessed with asserting their virility and female writers who are too bitter or resentful to express themselves freely.

She urges her audience to avoid thinking of their sex when they write, and to cultivate an incandescent and creative mind that can embrace both male and female aspects. She ends by asking them to earn money and a room of their own, and to write for the common good as well as for themselves

Diving Deeper

  • Begins with a but, asks a question
  • psychological conditions encountered by women writers
  • Hypothesizes about women need: i. Money ii. Room of One’s Own
  • analyzes diff bw male and female writers
  • writer highlights men’s anger against women affects their artistic production

The narrator uses Charlotte Bronte to show how extraordinary it is that Jane Austen was able to triumph over her situation by accepting it. Bronte by contrast was aware of her misfortune and never accepted it, and this bitterness came through in her fiction.
Consequently she was never able to achieve in the way Austen achieved


  1. According to Virginia Woolf, a woman requires a room of her own to write fiction because she needs to have money and freedom from domestic and social obligations. She argues that women have been historically oppressed and deprived of education, property, and artistic expression by a patriarchal society that values men’s work over women’s. She says that women need to have a space where they can think, create, and express themselves without interruption or interference from men or other women. She also says that women need to have a sense of their own history and tradition as writers, and to develop their own voice and style

Metaphors and Stuff

(1) Fish metaphor (2)


  1. All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved
  2. Of the two—the vote and the money—the money, I own, seemed infinitely the more important
  3. All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she—shady and amorous as she was—who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wit

see also: Mary Wollstonecraft


  1. a university security guard