“A woman must have money and a room of her own, if she is to write fiction” so says Virginia Woolf, hence the title of one of the most iconic feminist texts and the subject of this tea towel. ‘A Room of One’s Own’ is an extended essay, published in 1929, based on a series of lectures Virginia Woolf delivered to Newnham and Girton Colleges at Cambridge University; it explores women as writers and characters of fiction. I have to admit I struggle with her views on Jane Austen, who is my favourite author of all time, and for whom she does not have much time. But other ideas like “The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting, perhaps, than the story of that emancipation itself” are much more my cup of tea!
Fee bought me this tea towel in 2008, for my birthday. I remember it arriving through the post, all the way from Devon. As is her way, it was wrapped in a plastic bag; Fee never uses wrapping paper, occasionally, if you are lucky, a present will be wrapped in brown paper. But not this time. I like that about Fee, never do what everyone expects you to do, be your own person; this is probably why she chose this tea towel from a range of Pengin book front reproductions. It’s the sort of book I would associate with Fee. As I opened the parcel I could see the purple and just knew what it was. I love the way Penguin have marketed the front covers of their classic range of books, not only with tea towels but also mugs, tote bags, postcards etc.
This was a great choice of present for me (a) because it is a tea towel; I was delighted that Fee would buy me a tea towel because I know she thinks my obsession with tea towels is completely bonkers (b) because it reflects my love of books and reading and (c) because it is a feminist text which I am, in principle, passionate about but sometimes I struggle with in practice and Virginia Woolf epitomises this for me. This is certainly a tea towel that takes me beyond the wiping up, into another world, for me to ponder about. I’m not sure that I’d thought about “Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman”. I wonder if those ideas were based on knowledge or assumption. It makes you think; well, it makes me think and adds to the pleasure of wiping up, but it does extend the length of time it takes.
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