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Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
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Three Guineas (1938)

by Virginia Woolf

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1,02498,286 (4.02)49
  1. 10
    A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: These two books are V Woolf's most extremely feminist writing.
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Three Guineas was not an easy read for me, but it was an immensely satisfying one. I'm slightly ashamed to admit it, but I had never read Woolf before now. None of my high school or college classes (so far) taught her, and the only reason I picked this one up was because a friend handed it to me and said I'd enjoy it.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. I've always heard people complaining about Woolf and how boring she is to read, but I didn't find Three Guineas boring at all. Woolf's snarky tone was a pleasure to read and the way she backed every one of her points was a pleasure to see. This isn't just somebody complaining that people are asking for her money -- this is a woman who has thought deeply on some very complicated issues and knows just how to express herself.

All that being said, it's low page count is deceiving. As much as I enjoyed the book, I couldn't read much at a time. It's dense, and needs to be read slowly so it can be savored and thought about critically. ( )
  shulera1 | Jun 7, 2016 |
For years I have been meaning to read this book and I finally did over the summer. After I was done with it, I wondered why I hadn’t read this book in the first place. I blamed it on the fact that I tend to be more of a fantasy reader than a science fiction reader. However, I am now finding a place in my heart for this genre.

I was pretty disturbed by this book. Not only was the government in this book “recruiting” young geniuses to fight their wars for them, but they were turning it into a game. Since every training exercise was a game many of the children would forget the fact they were training for war, which gave me the creeps. War, in this future world, is a game to the people who are being forced to fight it.

This book really made me think about the prevalence of war based video games today. Now, I’m not against these games but I did find it interesting to compare what these children were doing during training to what my friends do in their own living rooms. There were some eerie similarities between the two, like the planning and strategy that sometimes goes in to playing them.

While there were some parts that were a little slow, the book was totally worth the read. It really makes the reader look more critically at how our society views war today and even video games. I give this book a 4/5 and I recommend it to most everyone. This book is proof that the science fiction genre can have literary value despite what critics of the genre may say. ( )
  kell1732 | Jan 25, 2015 |
A very dry treatise on women's issues. Explores the need for women to have education, employment and financial independence in order to truly make an impact on the world. Makes one appreciate what my sisters before me had to go through. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 24, 2014 |
…it matters not just because women win. It matters because it means we have a seat at the table. And everybody in this room knows the basic rule, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably on the menu.

—Senator Elizabeth Warren


This is my seventh Woolf. I own ten more. It is not often that I unconsciously commit myself so thoroughly to a single author, for when I was young and did not have recourse to Goodreads for purposes of planning out further successful reads, I followed each and every success to the end of their composers' bibliography, and that never, ever, ended well. Now here I sit, seven out of seventeen for read and soon to be reviewed of not seventeen, not even seven, but one. One single author. Her qualities I aspire to, her flaws are my own, and as much as I praise empathy and its Amnesty International heights of power, as much as I parse out my reading amongst the multifarious accordingly, the canon is a lie; representation, as a white daughter of educated men, is not.

So profound was her unconscious loathing for the education of the private house with its cruelty, its poverty, its hypocrisy, its immorality, its inanity that she would undertake any task however menial, exercise any fascination however fatal that enabled her to escape.

I said [A Room of One's Own] is a good entry to feminism. The danger, then, of its popularity and persistent blocking out of this other works' attributes is its all too often status as both start and finish, beginning and end. That is the act of learning not speech, nor a quote, not even the alphabet, but a single letter by which one reads. If one wants to be even more explicit, scrub out "letter" and replace it with "character", for the former brings to mind the English 26 of two significant digits while the latter speaks of the 5000+ entried language of Chinese, a culture-crossing comparison that speaks not only to our fear of multitudes of thousands but our fear of other and, in short, does well to describe the mentality with which we all should approach Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own'. Feminism is not a light switch; it is a lifetime. [To the Lighthouse], anyone?

We shall find there not only the reason why the pay of the professional woman is still so small, but something more dangerous, something which, if it spreads, may poison both sexes equally. There, in those quotations, is the egg of the very same worm that we know under other names in other countries. There we have in embryo the creature, Dictator as we call him when he is Italian or German, who believes he has the right, given by God, Nature, sex or race is immaterial, to dictate to other human beings how they shall live; what they shall do.

When I think of feminism, I think of destroying the patriarchy, and when I think of the patriarchy, I think of all. If [The Second Sex] was a room, [Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism] a window, [Three Guineas] is a barometer, for a storm comes upon us through myriad physical and chemical means, and it will not spare us its wrath due to the fact of our ignorance of its methods. We are all bound by the patriarchy, but do not take that as a reason to forgo feminism for humanism. There is a history behind me of those who were of my gender, those who due to the fact of our shared gender were isolated with impunity, forced into labor with impunity, raped with impunity and murdered with impunity. To forgo feminism for humanism is to obliterate the resistance birthed by that history with impunity. To forgo feminism for humanism is to imply that the millenia of centuries do not matter, we have not really come very far at all with our ability to not only survive but propagate, to not only propagate but to control, to not only control but to enhance, to not only enhance to progress, due to the fact that this movement is for the sake of women and women, as we all know, are the half of the population of humanity that is composed of objects. To put it plainly, I for the simple fact of being a woman have a lot more to lose a lot more easily, and if you refuse to take that into respectful account, what good is your status as a human being for?

And we find, between the lines of their husbands’ biographies, so many women practicing—but what are we to call the profession that consists in bringing nine or ten children into the world, the profession which consists in running a house, nursing an invalid, visiting the poor and the sick, tending here an old father, there an old mother?—there is no name and no pay for that profession; but we find so many mothers, sisters and daughters of educated men practicing it in the nineteenth century that we must lump them and their lives together behind their husbands’ and brothers’, and leave them to deliver their message to those who have the time to extract it and the imagination with which to decipher it.

Evolution is the survival of the fittest, fittest not in whatever implications of athleticism and superiority have accrued over the years but in the matter of a round block made of wood triumphing over a square block made of diamond because it is able to fit in the round hole. It is no surprise, then, that a patriarchal way of doing things, man as subject and woman as object, has percolated into every vein of social significance and common sense. It is no surprise, then, that we are compromised from the day of birth till the day we drop, so if you think this is a matter of competition or holier-than-thou, kill two birds with one stone and forget it. Not only is that the patriarchal manner of evaluation, survival of the fittest translating to utter erasure of the assumed to be useless but only, of course, after squeezing out every bit of use possible from that long forgotten name, identity, and self. Speech, thought, the way things are and the ways we fear are all geared towards those clubs men, those fashions of the military, those boys who will ever be boys, so it shouldn't surprise us how resistance is not a matter of putting your money behind your mouth but questioning why the mouth is worth so much less than the money.

If such is the real nature of our influence, and we all recognize the description and have noted the effects, it is either beyond our reach, for many of us are plain, poor and old; or beneath our contempt, for many of us would prefer to call ourselves prostitutes simply and to take our stand openly under the lamps of Piccadilly Circus rather than use it.

If there are no female philosophers, we shall have to question the definitions of "philosopher" and "philosophy", for if that oh so worthy title cannot be in any way applied to a work such as this, then its worth is very little indeed. What matters is the wide range of that worth applied to the heritage, the fact, the crowd of academia and purveyors of its gates and why is it none of them will come across a work such as this, a fierce 188 pages touching upon the relations between war and freedom and feminine momentum everywhere in between, admittedly suffering from Eurocentric solipsism but that has never stopped the men. This book comes upon a difference in income, a difference in education, a picture of dead bodies, and instead of quick-fix magicking the culprit up in the form of "the economy", "today's generation", "Internet" in the mainland and "terrorism" without, we have facts, we have logic, we have a quick and keen and systematic deconstruction of everything we take for granted in just the patriarchal mix of ethos and pathos and logos we all in the Ancient Greece-informed side of things aspire to, broken down and built up and into a completely new beast of paradigm and ideology that is the only trundler down the path not dictated by the yellow brick roads of the patriarchy, and still we withhold the "philosophy". Is the tag "feminism" supposed to make up for that lack? Considering the placement of its works in the "Sexuality" and "Women's Studies" areas, leaving the "Philosophy" shelves free to take on its bags of dicks, and the respective attracted audiences, I think not.

You shall swear that you will do all in your power to insist that any woman who enters any profession shall in no way hinder any other human being, whether man or woman, white or black, provided that he or she is qualified to enter that profession, from entering it; but shall do all in her power to help them.

Perhaps the word "philosophy" cannot contain it, for while survival of the fittest has been outfitted by the patriarchy accordingly, intersectionalism has not. There is a great deal in this work penned to completion 76 years ago that is all too familiar, and it is that great deal that trumps any talk of "incorrect application" and "breaks the rules" and roots the ideal of feminism firmly in the matter of the individual. Here, Woolf does not speak of a solution, nor does she summarize her main tenants into the great favorite of banking education of easily swallowed and easily vomited, but factors in the passage of time and its endless trials and errors on every scope of human effort into her composition. An weighty task that implies an insurmountable problem, but for all the pain and death and genocidal levels of infighting the human race has undergone, it still persists. Figure out the reason why we don't all just lay down and die, factor in the facts and statistics of gynephobia around the globe, keep at it long enough and find, eventually, a handful of means and a measure of hope to last you on your way.

The outsiders then would bind themselves not only to earn their own livings, but to earn them so expertly that their refusal to earn them would be a matter of concern to the work master. They would bind themselves to obtain full knowledge of professional practices, and to reveal any instance of tyranny or abuse in their professions…Broadly speaking, the main distinction between us who are outside society and you who are inside society must be that whereas you will make use of the means provided by your position—leagues, conferences, campaigns, great names, and all such public measures as your wealth and political influence place within your reach—we, remaining outside, will experiment not with public but with private means in private.

I called this book a barometer. For a more accurate metaphor, forgo Prometheus and carry the fire on your own.

“Then, to, there was my belief that now and then women should do for themselves what men have already done—and occasionally what men have not done—thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women towards greater independence of thought and action…When they fail their failure must be a challenge to others.”

-Ameila Earhart
( )
  Korrick | Oct 23, 2014 |
First-rate thinking proportionally rare amongst contemporaries; 19thC writing ( )
  cancione | Aug 7, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Virginia Woolfprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bottini, AdrianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcus, JaneEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muraro, LuisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Three years is a long time to leave a letter unanswered, and your letter has been lying without an answer even longer than that.
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If we use art to propagate political opinions, we must force the artist to clip and cabin his gift to do us a cheap and passing service.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156901773, Paperback)

The author received three separate requests for a gift of one guinea-one for a women’s college building fund, one for a society promoting the employment of professional women, and one to help prevent war and “protect culture, and intellectual liberty.” This book is a threefold answer to these requests-and a statement of feminine purpose.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Three Guineas is written as a series of letters in which Virginia Woolf ponders the efficacy of donating to various causes to prevent war. In reflecting on her situation as the "daughter of an educated man" in 1930s England, Woolf challenges liberal orthodoxies and marshals vast research to make discomforting and still-challenging arguments about the relationship between gender and violence, and about the pieties of those who fail to see their complicity in war-making. This pacifist-feminist essay is a classic whose message resonates loudly in our contemporary global situation.… (more)

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