Suicidal women in literature
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Suicidal Women in Literature. Some of the most powerful women in writing are unfortunately some with the saddest personal lives. -This is true for Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath

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Suicidal Women in Literature

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Suicidal Women in Literature

  • Some of the most powerful women in writing are unfortunately some with the saddest personal lives.

    -This is true for Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath

  • When reading these women’s manifestos one sees the hardships that they were facing while alive and the possibilities of equality that these women desired.

Mary Wollstonecraft

  • 1759-1797

  • Wollstonecraft lived during the Romantic Age.

  • She was heavily influenced by the same inspirations as the Romantic poets, especially the idea of revolution.

  • Wollstonecraft believed that if equality for all classes of men was possible, then equality for women was also foreseeable.

Vindication of the Rights of Women

  • Wollstonecraft’s literary career is most remembered for her essay, “Vindication of the Rights of Women.”

  • In this work, Wollstonecraft presents the idea that women are not inferior than men and that they should not be treated as such.

  • She believed that women should live up to their potential and not allow stereotypes for women influence them.

Wollstonecraft’s Personal Life

  • Wollstonecraft was raised in a household of moderate wealth, with a father who was abusive to his wife.

  • After moving out she acquired some fame with her writing.

  • At 35 Wollstonecraft gave birth to an illegitimate baby girl, Fanny Imlay.

  • Being abandoned by her lover, Gilbert Imlay, Mary attempted to drown herself by jumping into the Thames.

  • Although Wollstonecraft appeared very against marriage she ended up marrying radical philosopher, William Godwin, and died after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary.

  • After her death she was looked down upon.

Virginia Woolf

  • 1882-1941

  • Woolf was a major influence to the Modernist Period.

  • She rebelled against the concept of “materialism” in her works and avoided normal convention. Held her own voice as a female writer.

  • Woolf believed the position of women socially and professionally needed to reformed.

A Room of One’s Own

  • In Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own, she discusses the few opportunities for women writers during her time.

  • Woolf wanted females to create their own literature to expose female experiences and perspectives. Also, to cultivate the tenants of the female psyche.

  • Mostly Woolf advocates equality between men and women in literature. She described this literature as “androgynous in mind” (Woolf).

Woolf’s Personal Life

  • Woolf was raised in a fairly rich family, and was very well educated.

  • She had many horrors in childhood including sexual abuse, death of her mother and later being completely orphaned by the age of 22.

  • Woolf married when she was 30, but also had a female lover on the side.

  • During her lifetime, Woolf helped publish and inspire other writers, while pushing boundaries in her own works.

  • Woolf privately experienced serious bouts of depression and finally she took her own life, by drowning, at the age of 59.

Sylvia Plath

  • 1932-1963

  • Post war poet

  • Plath wrote poetry that was confessional.

  • She presented problems, such as lack of self identity, for women during the early 1900’s.

  • Plath was interested in the change of self and the possibilities one could take.

The Bell Jar

  • Plath is most renowned for her fictitious, semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar.

  • In this novel, Plath shows the vulnerability of being a young girl.

  • Her character, Ester, must navigate what is expected of her and what she truly wants.

  • Ester also struggles with her sexuality and with depression.

  • Through her character, Plath shows that women must sometimes choice to live unconventionally.

Plath’s Personal Life

  • Plath was raised in a small middle class family.

  • Her father died at the age of eight.

  • After attending college, Plath moved to London and married Tom Hughes.

  • The couple produced two children together, but then quickly divorced.

  • Plath almost succeeded in suicide in college and continued being depressed throughout her short lifetime.

  • Plath finally accomplished her goal of killing herself at the age of 30, by sticking her head in the oven.


  • These writers were powerful women with strong convictions. They had ideas of the life that should be led by females.

    - Could not handle living against the customs of society.

    ~Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalot”

    -Felt trapped in their roles.

    ~Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “An Ancient Gesture”

Works Cited

The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,2006. p. 167-170, 2080-2082.

Steinburg, Peter K.. A Celebration this is., 2012. Web. 2 March 2012.

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