Today is March 8, International Women’s Day, and three collections of inspiring quotes from notable women ranging from Coco Chanel to Gloria Steinem include a quote from Virginia Woolf — the same quote. Here it is:
Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size.
Woolf on the day
The fact that International Women’s Day, was first celebrated in 1911, during Woolf’s time, led me to wonder: What did she think of the day? I did a quick scan of her published diaries, but could not find specific mention of it.
In her diary entry of March 8, 1918, one of only four entries I could locate for the actual date, Woolf was preoccupied with World War I, and she notes that she and Leonard had to take refuge underneath their kitchen table after guns and air raid whistles went off late the previous night (D1, 123-4).
There were two entries on March 8 in the 1930s. A two-line entry on March 8, 1932, mentions the fatigue that makes it impossible for her to finish edits of her 1928 article on Dorothy Osborne’s letters that will be included in The Common Reader: Second Series (D4, 80). On March 8, 1937, she was working on her feminist anti-war polemic Three Guineas (1938), but her diary entry for that date includes her observations about the people she spotted while on a walk and her dislike of private areas that forced her to walk along the road, beset by motor traffic, on a cold, damp day (D5, 66).
And Woolf’s diary entry for March 8, 1941, mentions that they are just back from Brighton, where Leonard Woolf has given a speech to the Workers’ Education Association, or WEA, on “Common Sense in History.” Virginia describes the place as being “Like a foreign town: the first spring day. Women sitting on seats. A pretty hat in a teashop–how fashion revives the eye!” (D5, 357).
International Women’s Day has a strong British connection. It uses the color purple as a nod to the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) of Great Britain’s adoption of the color scheme of purple, white and green to symbolize the plight of the Suffragettes.
More on the day
For 14 more inspiring quotes, read International Women’s Day 2015: Top 15 inspirational quotes on women empowerment. For 36 more, go here. Then get another batch.
This year’s theme for the day is “Make It Happen.” Share your empowering quotes, news or stories on social media using the hashtag #IWD2015 or MakeItHappen.