The New Old Woman of the 1930s: Aging and Women’s History in Woolf, Sackville-West, and Holtby

Glenn CliftonSheridan College

In the decade following the victory of the Franchise Act of 1928, Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West, and Winifred Holtby all wrote novels representing older female protagonists as active, vital, critical thinkers. Working against the backdrop of the over-determined meanings of youth and age created by both the progressive discourses of the suffrage movement and the backlash against them, these authors represent older heroines positioned in alliance with younger women. The novels respond to a cultural hostility towards older women and spinsters, but they also use older protagonists to represent an element of women’s history, positioning them as critical sifters of the traditions of the past who have something essential to contribute to the future of the women’s movement.

KEYWORDS: British Modernism, Aging, Suffrage Movement, Women’s History, Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West, Winifred Holtby

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