I was hoping we’d get the weekend to catch up, but I received Day 6 today, so I’m still behind… ho hum… And we’re supposed to keep writing for 25 minutes (eek!). I may/may not be able to peck at the keyboard that long, but I’ll do what I can.
Today’s prompt is about focusing – ‘razor-sharp’, umm… I’m very much a soft-focus, Romantic kinda gal, so this may be a challenge, but I’ve decided to focus on one of my list of stuff to write about from Day 3: ‘Why I adore the 1920s (or rather the period between the Two World Wars) – so this is for you, Elizabeth 🙂
It’s a huge topic, and I know I could write a book about it, so a wee blog post really can’t do it justice, but I shall type away (unedited) and see where we go… (btw my love of V. Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group is very much a subset of why I love the 1920s/interwar years so. They embody the breaking out of the Victorian Age, in which they were all born and raised, and trying to work out a new way of being – being male, female, writers, painters, intellectuals, cultural influencers. I know they had complicated love lives, but that was all part of their experimental way of being.)
On a very shallow level, I adore the 1920s for the fashion – the flapper dress (it suits my body shape, as essentially I have no waist, bust or hips) – but it also encapsulates the radical departure from the restrictions of the corset, and the new-found freedom for women starting in the First World War, when women were doing jobs usually reserved for men, while the men were away fighting. It’s why I so enjoy Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge – suddenly women (even young Ladies like the Earl of Grantham’s daughter Edith, who drove tractors and helped out on the estate farms) were working in factories and loading bays, and the corsets and the long skirts were totally impractical, so their clothes had to change. As someone who can’t stand being encased in a shirt or jacket, I totally understand the comfort and joy of unstructured clothing! And the short bob haircut – the radical freedom of lopping off all that hair that had had to be pinned and faffed about with every, single day – oh what joy to just brush and decorate with a simple slide!!
This was also the time that women were nearing the end of their suffrage fight for the vote and a political voice (although the vote was only for married women over the age of 30, it was a start!) And it was in the early 1920s that universities finally granted full degrees to women (although my alma mater was the first female college in Oxford in 1879, they only awarded diplomas until 7 October 1920, when women were admitted as full members of the university).
I know the 1920s are often portrayed as the time of the Bright Young Things – drunken, wealthy airheads partying all the time – it was a time of huge social change. The First World War devastated the population, and the Old Order’s influence was slipping and opportunities for women opened up in education and society as a whole. One of Virginia Woolf constant gripes that even though her father was an eminent academic, she and Vanessa received no formal education – they had governesses while their brothers attended the best schools and universities. I can only imagine how it must have grated to be the brightest in the family, yet denied access to the best teachers. I think that’s why she developed her causic wit – in a attempt to compete with the best minds in the country (T.S. Eliot, J. M. Keynes, Bertrand Russell, etc). It’s not her most endearing quality by any means (she could be a real bitch in her letters!), but I can so understand her frustration. Even though I only attended an ordinary, rural comprehensive, I assumed I had every right to attend university if I got the grades. No access was denied me on the grounds of my gender!
Well, my 25 minutes is up! You see, get me spouting on my favourite topics and the time whizzes by! But my hand hurts like heck, so I shall just hit Publish!