Announcing the Women’s Classic Literature Event.

Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, Zora Neale Hurson, George Eliot, Rose Wilder Lane, Louisa May Alcott, & Virginia Woolf.

Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, Zora Neale Hurston, George Eliot, Rose Wilder Lane, Louisa May Alcott, & Virginia Woolf.

Have you ever read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf?

There’s this scene in the essay where Woolf’s narrative persona is in the British Museum and can’t find a proper history on women. She can find a whole bunch of books by men about what women think, what they should think, what they shouldn’t think, who they are: but she can’t get at the actual woman. In fiction by men, she finds that women are either portrayed as angels or promiscuous monsters. Always they are portrayed in relation to men. In history, she finds that they are invisible, and that she cannot rely on the portrayal of women she finds in the British Museum:

“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques–literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.” – Virginia Woolf

We’re going to have an event. It officially starts today because it is no fun to wait until January. But you can wait until January if you want to. 🙂

The event? Read classic literature by female authors, & share your thoughts (or links to your thoughts) at #ccwomenclassics on Twitter, or in our quarterly check-ins, which we’ll have here in January, April, July, October, & December of 2016.

This event is way more a celebration than a “reading challenge.” It’s about hunting out those forgotten titles which didn’t make it into the official canon, & reading them & sharing the excitement. Or exploring the females who are in the canon. For example, if you want to spend the entire year poring over Middlemarch by George Eliot, going a chapter or two a month and gently journaling, we don’t want to stifle that by asking you to meet a title count.

You can make a preset list, if you want one. (We think preset lists are mighty fine!) You can give yourself a goal. Or you can do this thing organically: read as you’re inspired, and share as you’re inspired, & give us a wave now & then.

You can choose any genre you like: Gothics, sensation fiction, sentimental novels, children’s classics, letters, journals, essays, short stories, female writers from the American South, Irish classics by women, African classics by women, Australian classics by women, poetry, plays. You can do all Persephone titlesall Virago, all forgotten nineteenth century letter-writers, all journals, all novels, all essays, all feminist works — or a mix. You could do a deep exploration of a single author’s work, or pick a couple authors whose works you’d like to compare and contrast. You could set up your own dueling authors: read three by one author, and three by the other, and see who comes out on top. Really, you can get as creative as you want with this event. If the title was penned by a female and written or published before 1960, it counts. (We don’t actually care if you want to fudge that date.)

Biographies on classic females count, too. (Even if they were written recently.) If you go that route, it would be lovely if you shared your author findings in a post so others can learn! If you want to list a series of poems by women & call that your list, it counts. Often women wrote short stories for magazines when they couldn’t find a publisher for their novel. That counts! Tour the centuries and continents or locate yourself in England in the nineteenth century. Your list is the product of your own exploration and imagination. If you want to reread the whole Little House collection for the entire year — THAT COUNTS. 🙂 The point is to get people thinking about women writers & sharing favorite reads.

We encourage clubbers to host readalongs or join together in buddy reads, if you’d like. If you’re hosting a readalong, feel free to tweet it to #ccwomenclassics and @ourclassicsclub if you’re on Twitter so others have the opportunity to join, & remember you can toss a link here. Feel free to use the comments box or our twitter hashtag to work out group reads or buddy reads together, if it comes up.

  • Check-Ins: We’ll check in January 2016, April 2016, July 2016, October 2016, & December 2016, just to have a little fun & see how everyone’s doing. These check-ins will be very casual: just a place to say hello, compare notes, & maybe mention some of our favorite reads so far. It would be fun to discover some new titles through the check-ins!
  • Event Dates: Now through December 31, 2016.
  • Sign Up: This is the sign-up post, & the comment box below is where you join. If you make a preset list, feel free to drop your link in the comment box at any time. If you want to share your titles as you read, you can do that in the comments for the current post for the event, or at Twitter: #ccwomenclassics.

What do you think? Can you suggest some titles or authors people might want to explore? Can you suggest some sources for discovering female authors?

Are you interested in taking part? Are you going to set a goal? Have you got a current favorite female classic writer? Who are you itching to meet through her books? 


128 thoughts on “Announcing the Women’s Classic Literature Event.

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  3. I would love to participate! I will officially start in January though, although I am currently reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, so it could still count. And I should have a list created by my January start date.


      • Wouldn’t that be great? I’d pay good money to have the equivalent Spanish anthology.
        Unfortunately this is not a Vintage initiative – as far as I understood, the sole responsible was Elaine Showalter, the editor. I’ve been wanting to read her ‘Female Malady’ for ages.


  4. Here’s my latest list, although I don’t think I’ll get to all these. Suggestions welcome!
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
    Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
    Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
    Ethan Frome or The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
    Silas Marner or The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
    Classic Children’s Books: Astrid Lindgren, PL Travers, Maud Hart Lovelace, or E Nesbit

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. I think this is such a fantastic idea! Could I reblog it to share with my followers? I love the idea of revisiting classic crime fiction women writers – as I focus in crime fiction!


  12. Love this idea! I was just complaining to a classmate about the lack of women on our class reading list this semester, so this is a perfect way to fix what’s lacking! This will be a great chance to get through the classics by women that I already own, and to discover new authors. I’m totally in!

    Liked by 2 people

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  14. Totally just reread this and didn’t see the thing about reading the entire Little House series before! I am doing that starting December if anyone wants to join!:-)


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  18. Love this! Especially since I plan to host a Laura Ingalls Wilder Read-Along starting in January! One book per month for all 11 books. This will include the 9 Little House books as well as On the Way Home and West From Home. I’ll plan to post detailed information on the Classics Club sight November 1st. Can’t wait since I’ve never read any of these books!


  19. This sounds great! I have wanted to explore more of L.M. Montgomery, but I have also wanted to read more 19th American women writers. On the other hand, I have not read much Gothic….hmmmm. Will have to think this through 🙂


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  21. This is a good incentive for me to put some more women on my classics list. A lot of the women on my list are more recent: Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Harper Lee, and Muriel Spark. I do have Mrs. Dalloway on my list. I’m glad this challenge runs the whole year since I’d never have time to do it right now.

    Liked by 2 people

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  23. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love this event with all my heart! I think I’ll start with the women on my CC list, and go from there. I have quite a number of Persephones, Nancy Mitfords, and Virginia Woolfs on there!

    I also include a book I received for my birthday: Stefan Bollmann’s Frauen und Bücher (Women and Books). Unfortunately, it hasn’t been translated into English yet. He has also written Women Who Read Are Dangerous, which I haven’t read yet, but am mighty curious about.


  24. What a super idea. This will give me a much needed impetus to read more on my classics club list. I have 11 titles by women authors pre 1960. One of which is Virgina Woolf (actually I have 4 by her listed which should keep me busy)


  25. Great suggestion. Still have to read “My Antonia” for the previous challenge and need to get a move on there. Determined to read “Persuasion” before the year is out, and adding “The Mill on the Floss” because am still reeling from how fantastic “Middlemarch” was. Also cannot resist putting “Testament of Youth” into the mix – the recent film so good – but Vera Brittain does not feature on the Classics Big Book list, so will that not count?

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I think this is a FABULOUS idea. Thank you for suggesting this! I read the “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Wolf when CC held a spin on it a few years ago. I have since read Mrs. Dalloway & would like to explore more of her writings as well as other classic women writers. I had noticed & been dissappointed with how few women writers are authors of classics.
    I have recently read Willa Carther’s “O’Pioneers!” & loved it. I want to read more of her. I have read a ton of Austen in the past. I loved “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Nora Zeale Hurston.
    On my current reading list is “Middlemarch”, “A Room of One’s Own”, as well as other Virginia Wolf writings, and I’d like to finish the Willa Carther trilogy.
    I would love to hear about more great women writers from others here! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

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