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  • Writer's pictureDonna Norman Carbone

Women's History Month: a tribute

This month honors the history of women who have paved the way for us to have a voice. We have come a long way since disguising ourselves by using male pseudonyms to publish novels.

“For most of history, anonymous was a woman” –Virginia Woolf

In addition to being an author, I am also an English teacher at a suburban high school. I teach junior and senior, honor level students. In British Literature, I always begin my Virginia Woolf unit by asking my students to read “Shakespeare’s Sister,” an excerpt from Woolf’s collection of speeches and essay entitled A Room of One’s Own. In it Woolf tells a fictitious story in which she creates Shakespeare’s brilliant sister, Judith, who has been born w/ the same gifts as her brother. Only her fate is a dire one that ends in her death. Woolf suggests the oppression and suppression of women can literally be deadly, as it was for Woolf herself, who suffered many manic episodes throughout her life and would end her own life by suicide. 

In the essay, Woolf poses a rhetorical question for the reader. If strong, powerful, talented women didn’t exist (as there isn’t a trace of them in historian Professor Trevelyan’s History of England), then how and why were women at the center of the works of so many men?

Woolf points to examples like Antigone, Cleopatra, Lady MacBeth, Desdemona, Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary. She says, “A queer composite being thus emerges: imaginatively, she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant.”

“A queer composite being thus emerges: imaginatively, she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant ” –Virginia Woolf

Why do I relay these stories? For two reasons.

One, you should read A Room of One’s Own which suggests and I quote “If a woman is to write fiction, she must have money and a room of her own.” Tell me this isn’t still true today. I concede, we, as a society have made great strides towards the equality of women, but we still have a ways to go. Whether you are a writer or in another profession, Woolf speaks to the necessity of women’s independence and equality.

Two, we must not forget the past, lest we are in danger of repeating it (think Roe vs. Wade, but that’s a topic for another day). 

It is important for me to honor these women, specifically female writers who had to alter their names for their words and voices to be heard.

I write women’s fiction in order to celebrate the complexity, power, depth, compassion, persistence, passion, dedication, resilience, nurturing, and significance of women. I am always curious about the ways in which the past affects the present. My novels are predominantly set in the present, but each contains connections to the past to demonstrate the growth of women over time. By nature, we are and always have been strong, resilient beings. 

Women’s History Month is dedicated to women in all walks of life. Let’s remember them, celebrate them, honor them by lifting up our female counterparts.

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