Lithograph of George Gissing by Sir William Rothenstein, 1897
My reading lately has been of books that address this theme of a woman's place and the place of "respectable" unmarried women in society and their poverty, it is one that preoccupies many novelists at least from Jane Austen onwards (although I am sure it predates her) and right on into the 1950s when Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, which I have only just started, appears to be asking what place do unmarried women have in society. In between I have read a short novel by E M Delafield, Thank Heaven Fasting, about a débutante of the Edwardian period who "could never, looking backwards, remember a time when she had not known that a woman's failure or success in life depended entirely upon whether or not she succeeded in getting a husband". This novel showed a society in which a woman only had a status in relation to a man, a daughter, a fiancée, a wife, a mother, a widow and of these "wife" was far and above the most important status. The débutante is treated as a child and her mother's emotional collapse upon her father's death shows how far her status is affected.
Anyhow, I shall continue with my feminist reading into May and continue through The Golden Notebook, which I have on an audio-book, making it ideal for listening to while knitting. Perhaps that will be next month's book and perhaps I shall write about it before the evening of the last day of the month!