The Women’s Room

The Women’s RoomMarilyn FrenchSummit Books1977

From Wikipedia: The Women’s Room is the debut novel by American feminist author Marilyn French, published in 1977. It launched French as a major participant in the feminist movement and, while French states it is not autobiographical, the book reflects many autobiographical elements. For example, French, like the main character, Mira, was married and divorced, and then attended Harvard where she obtained a Ph.D. in English Literature. Despite the connection of The Women’s Room to the feminist movement, French stated in a 1977 interview with The New York Times: “The Women’s Room” is not about the women’s movement… but about women’s lives today.”

The Women’s Room has been described as one of the most influential novels of the modern feminist movement. Its instant popularity brought criticism from some well-known feminists that it was too pessimistic about women’s lives and too anti-men.

The Women’s Room is set in 1950s America and follows the fortunes of Mira Ward, a conventional and submissive young woman in a traditional marriage, and her gradual feminist awakening. The novel met stark media criticism when published but went on to be an international best seller.

One advantage to being a despised species is that you have freedom, freedom to be any crazy thing you want. If you listen to a group of housewives talk, you’ll hear a lot of nonsense, some of it really crazy. This comes, I think, from being alone so much, and pursuing your own odd train of thought without impediment, which some call discipline. The result is craziness, but also brilliance. Ordinary women come out with the damnedest truth. You ignore them at your own risk. And they are permitted to go on making wild statements without being put in one kind of jail or another (some of them, anyway) because everyone knows they’re crazy and powerless too. If a woman is religious or earthy, passive or wildly assertive, loving or hating, she doesn’t get much more flak than if she isn’t: her choices lie between being castigated as a ball and chain or as a whore.

Marilyn French, The Women’s Room.