Laws and Effects

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Kajal MulaniMulani 1
Elizabeth Goetz
English 120- 088
Final Draft of Research Paper
December 4th 2012.
Laws and Their Effect on Writers
Virginia Woolf and Zora Neale Hurston both describe women’s circumstances. What laws were binding their actions? How did the laws shape their writings? Virginia Woolf and Zora Neale Hurston both write about women’s rights in early twentieth century America. While Hurston focuses on women rights in America, Woolf writes about the rights women had in Britain. In Britain, the Married Women’s Property Act played a huge role in determining the property that women can own after marriage. In America, Hurston was faced with racial segregation laws which limited/restricted her to do a lot. This research paper will focus on how different laws restricted both Virginia Woolf in Britain and Zora Neale Hurston in America and how it affected their personal writings. Laws that were in effect during the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century played a big role in their writing styles. It makes a big difference when authors write about their childhoods or personal experiences they have been through. Virginia Woolf writes and discusses about women’s rights in Britain. Virginia Woolf was born in 1882 and began writing as a young girl. She published her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915. She was raised in an extraordinary household. Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was a historian and author. Woolf’s mother, Julia Prinsep Stephen was born in India and was a model for painters, as well as nurse and a writer. Woolf had been traumatized when she was 6 because her half brothers sexually abused her. Around this time, Woolf’s mother had also died and 2

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years after that her half sister also died. Despite her emotions, she continued her education. In 1912, Leonard and Woolf were married. (Garrigan) The Married Women’s Property act effects women and sets restrictions for the property they can own after their marriage. The 1870 Married Women's Property Act created major change in nineteenth-century British property law. (Combs). This act is one of the most important acts passed and it has prevented women from owning any property without their husbands control in England. When this law was passed, women already had fewer rights than men regarding voting and with the freedom they had. This law stated that married women could not make wills and that a husband is in complete charge of the women’s personal property. In England, married women were not given any economic identity. (Combs A Room of Ones Own, one of Woolf’s feminist essays, has become a rallying document in the growing women’s movement. (Garrigan). In this long essay she argues the right for women to work and own property. She mentions, “ a women can not write fiction unless she has money and a room of her own” (Woolf, page 1). Throughout her long essay, she backs up and gives reason as to why she said that. Virginia Woolf believes in women having property and money, which is a reoccurring topic in her writings. In Virginia Woolf’s novel ‘Orlando’ a women gets the property that is hers, only because it is a fairytale. Virginia Woolf poses many questions throughout her novels. “Why are women poor?” “Why do women need money and a room of their own?” “Why does she have to hide her identity?” Virginia Woolf shows the readers that owning property affects the way women write about marriage. Virginia Woolf has personally gone through these experiences and these hard times so she can clearly express what she has gone through. (Reid). Women wouldn’t write their own name on a

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published book; which is also why Woolf keeps changing her name throughout her book length essay because she does not want to show her identity. “Instinct rather than reason came to my help; he was a Beadle; I was a woman. This was the turf; there was the path. Only Fellows and Scholars are allowed here; the gravel...
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