Ordinary women a century apart : Virginia Woolf's average woman writer and her twenty-first century counterparts.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


This dissertation explores the vastly different opportunities afforded to average women writers of Victorian England and average women writers of contemporary America. I study the limitations placed on an average woman's voice and desire for self-expression during the times that Virginia Woolf and her Victorian predecessors lived. I analyze the ways these limitations differ from the freedom of expression average women in twenty-first century America experience, and I discuss how we can witness these differences through contemporary, American pop culture. I argue that Virginia Woolf was somewhat of a pop-culture icon of her day, before the contemporary eruption of pop-culture and mass media, and her modern views exposed widespread audiences to alternative lifestyles for women before society was willing to accept them in these types of roles. Through close readings of A Room of One's Own and To the Lighthouse, and through the examination of critical research in the fields of feminism, modernism, popular culture, and sociocultural studies, I examine the ways in which Woolf was a revolutionary female writer. Now, there is immense opportunity for women writers living in contemporary America to express themselves, without inhibition, through writing. Virginia Woolf and others, such as Betty Friedan, through the women's movement in the mid-1900s, paved the way for women writers by offering alternative lifestyles to full-time motherhood or stay-at-home wifehood; however, by the turn of the century, women writers began to witness freedom of expression and opportunity for writing like never before. Thanks to the advent of mass media, women writers are now exposed to average women writing candidly on Internet blogs, and television characters such as Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City-- a single, female, sex columnist in her forties who writes of her non-conventional lifestyle and is idolized rather than criticized, by the American public and viewers worldwide, for doing so. This dissertation analyzes the ways in which life for average women writers has thoroughly changed from the Victorian Era to modern day America.