Reading the Room

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  • Introduction

    Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One's Own in 1929 after she presented lectures on 'Women and Fiction' at the two newly established women's Colleges at Cambridge University the year prior. She dines at the resplendent men's colleges, contrasting them sharply with the poverty of the women’s colleges which had not benefited from the same access to wealth and power. The economic basis of access to influence, education and cultural institutions leads her to ask many questions, including how far women, who had just gained the right to vote, had acquired genuine equality. Her famous claim that 'a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction' has become a metaphor for a wider argument about the underpinnings of gender equality. While her interrogation is now almost 100 years old, many of the issues she raised then are still relevant. Here, Associate Professor Fiona Jenkins and Lara Nicholls talk about A Room of One's Own and its importance in our times.Music: From “String Quartet in E minor” composed by Dame Ethel Mary Smyth and performed by the Archaeus String Quartet. Released by LORELT (Lontano Records Ltd). To purchase the full digital album, visit:

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  • 1. Chapter 1

    “A woman must have money and a room of her own...”Our Readers:Julia GillardJulia Gillard was the 27th Prime Minister of Australia and is the inaugural Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at Kings College London and the Australian National University, which through research, practice and advocacy, is addressing women’s under-representation in leadership.Lara WhiteOriginally from Melbourne, Lara is a second-year student at the Australian National University studying a double degree of Arts and Design, and residing at Burgmann College.Michael BrandAs director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Dr Michael Brand @michaelbrandsydney is leading the largest expansion in the art museum’s history – the Sydney Modern Project – due to open in 2022. Michael is a global cultural leader and art scholar and his work spans art museums and academia as well as government, philanthropic and community sectors.Celia RobertsCelia Roberts is a Professor in the School of Sociology. She is currently co-writing a book on reproduction in climate crisis. Twitter:@CeliaMRobertsEvana HoCommunications Coordinator in the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences. She previously produced the podcast Future Self, featuring students interviewing people doing their dream job, and produced and hosted the podcasts This Academic's Life and Better Things. Angela WoollacottAngela Woollacott is the Manning Clark Professor of History at the Australian National University, and is an elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and the Royal Historical Society.Fiona JenkinsFiona Jenkins is the Convenor of the ANU Gender Institute and an Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy. Her recent research on “Gendered Excellence in the Social Sciences”  takes up themes close to those Virginia Woolf broaches in ‘A Room of One’s Own’, looking at the causes of women’s persistent under-representation in some disciplinary areas and the impacts this has on knowledge.
  • 2. Chapter 2

    “Of the two - the vote and the money - the money, I own, seemed infinitely the more important.”Our Readers: Brian SchmidtProfessor Brian Schmidt is a world-renowned astrophysicist, 2011 Nobel Prize (Physics) recipient and the 12th Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University. Brian was born in Missoula, Montana, received his PhD in Astronomy from Harvard University, and owns a winery in NSW, Australia.Jessica UrwinJessica Urwin is a PhD candidate in the school of history researching a history of nuclear colonialism in South Australia. Twitter: @JessUrwin95Margaret JollyMargaret Jolly, AM FASSA, Emerita Professor at the Australian National University is a transdisciplinary scholar of gender and Pacific studies, researching and teaching on gender and sexuality in colonial and contemporary Oceania. She is presently focused on gender and the climate crisis and the challenges of decolonial, intersectional feminisms.Hilary CharlesworthHilary Charlesworth is a Melbourne Laureate Professor and Harrison Moore professor at Melbourne Law School and a Distinguished Professor in RegNet at the ANU. She is also the first Australian woman to be elected to the UN International Court of Justice.Kim RubensteinKim Rubenstein is a Professor at the University of Canberra. She is the co-director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra, and has announced that she intends to be an independent candidate to nominate for representing Canberra or the ACT at the next federal election.
  • 3. Chapter 3

    “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”Our Readers: Asmi WoodAsmi Wood is a professor at the ANU law school.Isobel KouIsobel Kuo is a third year student at The Australian National University studying Law and PPE.Kate MitchellKate Mitchell’s research explores historical fiction and the literary and cultural history of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.Elspeth PittElspeth Pitt is Curator, Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra.Raelene FrancesRaelene Frances AM is Dean of the College of Arts and Social Sciences and Professor of History at the Australian National University and is an elected fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.Ian DarlingIan Darling is an award winning documentary film director and producer - he attended Burgmann College at ANU, and in 2020 was named ANU’s Alumni of the Year. Instagram: @iandarlingsharkCharlotte YoungCharlotte Young is a current first year resident and serving as the Chair of Diversity at Burgmann College. She is studying a double degree of Politics, Philosophy and Economics/Arts, and is a youth/disability advocate
  • 4. Chapter 4

    “Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.”Our Readers: Jessica BenterJessica Benter is a writer and Honours student at The Australian National University studying Art History and Curatorship. She has previously interned at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the National Gallery of Australia.Inger MewburnProfessor Inger Mewburn is the Director of Researcher Development at the Australian National University and editor of the Thesis Whisperer blog ( AdamsWilliam Adams is a third-year law and politics, philosophy and economics student at the Australian National University.Shalom ChalsonShalom is a PhD Candidate in the School of Philosophy at The Australian National University. She works on what discrimination is and what makes it wrong.Roseanne KennedyRosanne Kennedy is Associate Professor of Literature and Gender, Sexuality and Culture at the Australian National University. Working at the intersection of transnational memory studies, feminist theory, and literature, law and human rights, her research explores memories and mediations of violence, trauma and injustice in cultural and legal texts and contexts. Lucy NeaveLucy Neave's second novel, Believe in Me, will be published by UQP in September 2021. She researches in the area of contemporary literature and is Associate Dean, Student Experience at the ANU.Beck DavisBeck Davis is Head of School at the Australian National University, School of Art & Design. She is also a Board Member of the Design Institute of Australia, and Art Monthly Australasia. Twitter: _beck_
  • 5. Chapter 5

    “I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends... almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men.”Our Readers:Jilda AndrewsJilda Andrews is a Yuwaalaraay cultural practitioner and museum ethnographer, currently a research fellow with the Australian National University and National Museum of Australia.Kristen FarrellKirsten Farrell is an artist, knowledge worker, queer, mother. She holds a PhD from the ANU School of Art (2016). Instagram: kirsten_farrell/vivisector oracleSally RenoufSally Renouf is the Principal of Burgmann College, an independent university residential College at the Australian National University. Sally is the ninth Principal of Burgmann and the first woman to hold the role in its 50 year history.Rebecca MayoRebecca Mayo is a lecturer at the ANU School of Art & Design. Her print and textile-based art, informed by and practiced with ethics and labours of care, aims to frame care, or its absence as a critical tool for understanding contemporary lived conditions, particularly in relation to environmental, non-human and feminist concerns.Elizabeth ReidElizabeth Reid has worked as a national and an international public servant and as a consultant in most developing regions of the world. Her particular focus included feminism, ethics, community development, and the HIV epidemic.John FitzgeraldJohn Fitzgerald is a student at the Australian National University, studying a Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics / Bachelor of Commerce (Finance).
  • 6. Chapter 6

    “Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine.”Our Readers: Ben JeffersonBen is studying Economics and Philosophy at the ANU and hopes to work in sustainable development in the future. He looks up to his many women role models and friends, and after their example tries to make the world a better place and himself a better person. LinkedIn: Ben Jefferson, Twitter @benjeff199Chris WallaceChris Wallace is a writer, scholar and active political citizen with a PhD in History from ANU. Reading Quentin Bell's Virginia Woolf: A Biography in 1976 was the gateway drug to her lifelong engagement with Bloomsbury. Twitter: @c_s_wallaceSarah ScottSarah Scott is a Lecturer in the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at ANU who is currently co-editing a book entitled Crosscurrents in Australian First Nations and non-Indigenous art for Routledge publishers.Lara NichollsLara Nicholls is completing a PhD on the professionalisation of women artists in the nineteenth century and is the inaugural Jennifer Strauss Fellow in the Humanities for her research in women artists and Impressionism. She is a Residential Fellow at Burgmann College.Will SalkeldWill Salkeld is an Arts Representative and an Academic Network Coordinator at Burgmann College. He is studying a Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the ANU and is an active musician outside of his studies. IsmailRaihan Ismail is a DECRA Fellow and a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, ANU. Follow her on Twitter @ismail_raihPoppy ThompsonPoppy Thomson is a young singer-songwriter and aspiring curator from Sydney. She is currently in her second year of a Bachelor of Art History and Curatorship at the ANU and attends Burgmann College.