Virginia Woolf's phrase, 'a room of one's own' has long since passed into popular parlance. Coined in response to talks requested by the women students of Newnham and Girton colleges in Cambridge on women and writing, Woolf's prescient phrase highlights an increasing awareness of the importance of spatial privacy to modern women and, in particular, to aspiring women writers. Yet there is nothing new about the idea of privacy for women. Though women through the centuries have not always enjoyed rooms of their own, they have had recourse to mental privacy, retreating to the internal spaces of their minds for refuge or silent critique. Patricia Meyer Spacks has noted with reference to Frances Burney's Evelina and Jane Austen's novels that privacy for women is often located in the internal spaces of silences snatched in the midst of more sociable moments or in the space that reading provides. As we move into the early twentieth century however, the terms of reference begin to shift. Where Austen's heroines understood 'that privacy [did] not altogether depend on physical situation' and located privacy instead within the inner and inviolable space of the mind, by the early twentieth century the demands from women were for rooms of their own, for physical privacy to accompany mental privacy. (1) Inner space was no longer entirely sufficient for female privacy. Sally Alexander, in considering the impulse expressed by diverse women in the twenties for rooms of their own, writes of this desire as a desire for inner space, 'a state of mind' to transform self and society. (2) I wish to argue however that it is not the push for inner space that is new but the asking for physical space to accompany the inner space of refuge. There needs to be physical solitude to make privacy complete.
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