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Three Guineas

by Virginia Woolf

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From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen
Like Virginia Woolf's better known A Room of One's Own, Three Guineas is still timely and well worth the effort required to read it. In this book-length essay, an English writer responds to a letter - from a society for preventing war and protecting culture and intellectual liberty - which asks "How in your opinion are we to prevent war?" and requests a one guinea donation. Her response examines this and two similar requests, one from a women's college building fund, and the other from a society promoting the employment of professional women. Each request for a guinea is seriously and thoroughly considered by questioning, in detail, why each of the needs exists: Why doesn't the English government support education for women? Why are women in England barred from professional work? And why is World War II imminent? With scathing humor, boundless dignity, and engaging detail, Virginia Woolf finds the answers to all three questions in the same source: "...we can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods... to assert 'the rights of all - all men and women - to the respect in their persons of the great principles of Justice and Equality and Liberty.'" -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.

Book Description
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.

Annotated and with an introduction by Jane Marcus



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