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Three Guineas Paperback – May 1, 1963

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Editorial Reviews


Like Virginia Woolf's better known A Room of One's Own, Three Guineas is still timely and well worth the effort required to read it. In this book-length essay, an English writer responds to a letter - from a society for preventing war and protecting culture and intellectual liberty - which asks "How in your opinion are we to prevent war?" and requests a one guinea donation. Her response examines this and two similar requests, one from a women's college building fund, and the other from a society promoting the employment of professional women. Each request for a guinea is seriously and thoroughly considered by questioning, in detail, why each of the needs exists: Why doesn't the English government support education for women? Why are women in England barred from professional work? And why is World War II imminent? With scathing humor, boundless dignity, and engaging detail, Virginia Woolf finds the answers to all three questions in the same source: "...we can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods... to assert 'the rights of all - all men and women - to the respect in their persons of the great principles of Justice and Equality and Liberty.'" -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen

From the Publisher

7 1-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; REPRINT edition (May 1, 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156901773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156901772
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Hilda Doolittle on October 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First, about the false advertising: Amazon promises the Kindle edition is the Annotated Edition. In fact, it is not. I read this book at least every year, and have several paperback editions of it, including the annotated one. I wanted the annotated in kindle to teach from, but when it came, I was disappointed to see it's the one without original pictures & annotations. I tried to get Amazon's attention about this, but the online communications proved too cumbersome to work through.

This work's mportance is immense; it is a 1938 update of and response to Mary Wollstonecraft's A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN (1792).. If you find the reading difficult at first, read it aloud to yourself until you get a sense of Woolf's style and voice. This is a sequel to A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN, much more potent than that canonized work.

Read it!
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By V. Marshall VINE VOICE on February 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Early feminism begins to emerge in this essay written by Virginia Woolf in 1938 as a follow up to her wonderful book "A Room of One's Own."

Woolf received requests for three guineas from a women's college, from a society for promoting professional women and finally from a group requesting the prevention of war. This essay is Woolf's answer to those requests. While it is extraordinarily cumbersome to read the bottom line suggests that a society which promotes only one aspect of itself and suffocates anything else will never be advanced enough to protect its own culture and intellect from revolutions and wars. And because the idea of fighting rests in the very aspect so highly promoted (male dominated society) all of the laws and practices contain this strife and will until other parts of society are allowed a fair voice. The interesting concept is how little society has advanced from this original idea and the strife continues to be a factor today. Woolf suggests war exists as a profession and an act that offers "happiness and excitement" for the very society it falls under. In fact she goes as far to suggest that men would deteriorate without the outlet of war to contend with. Woolf discusses patriotism as a purely male act because of the fact that women simply cannot be patriots in a culture that suffocates their voices and refuses to educate them (remember this is 1938). The disturbing thought is that women are now able to vote, work and fight in wars but our culture remains basically the same with white males in domination. How slow we are to advance!

Virginia Woolf believed that war could only be prevented through an educational system that stopped the glamorization of it and instead taught the inhumanity of the act.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on September 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. In this book, she answers three requests for donation of a guinea: from a women's college building fund; from a society for professional women; and from a group which aims to prevent war, as well as "protect culture; and intellectual liberty."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"Our class is the weakest of all the classes in the state. We have no weapon with which to enforce our will." (Pg. 13)
"...our new weapon, the influence which the educated man's daughter can exert now that she is able to earn her own living." (Pg. 17)
" the present state of things the most effective way in which we can help you through education to prevent war is to subscribe as generously as possible to the colleges for the daughters of educated men." (Pg. 37)
"The questions that we have to ask and to answer about that procession during this moment of transition are so important they they may well change the lives of all men and women for ever. For we have to ask ourselves, here and now, do we wish to join that procession? Above all, where is it leading us, the procession of educated men?" (Pg. 62)
"She will find that she has no good reason to ask her brother to fight on her behalf to protect 'our' country. 'Our country,' she will say, 'throughout the greater part of our history has treated me as a slave; it has denied me an education or any share in its possessions.'" (Pg. 108)
"...we can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods. We can best help you to prevent war not by joining your society but by remaining outside your society but in co-operation with your aim." (Pg. 143)
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Abigail Nussbaum on September 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you've come in search of more Virginia Woolf essays after being blown away by A Room of One's Own, be warned - Three Guineas isn't as good as that earlier, astonishing essay. Nevertheless, a second-tier Virginia Woolf essay is still a Virginia Woolf essay, which is to say, clever, funny and dangerously sharp.

In Three Guineas, Woolf discusses three letters, each requesting a donation of a guinea, one from a society seeking to prevent war, one from a society promoting the employment of professional women and one from the building fund of a women's college. All worthy goals, and anyone else might have been satisfied to send them each a guinea and be done with it. Woolf, on the other hand, uses these three requests to launch a discussion about women's role in society and the effect that educated, professional women can and should have on it.

As in A Room of One's Own, some of what Woolf says is obvious or outdated. What's staggering, however, is how many of her observations remain fresh and relevant. Even more staggering is how accurately she predicts the changes that have taken place since society began making a real place for women - changes in society, but also changes in women. Although I knew much of what Woolf was saying, I doubt that I had ever seen these thoughts so clearly and intelligently formulated. As an added bonus, Three Guineas provides a brief but fascinating glimpse into the history of the suffrage movement (and its opposition) in England.

It is easy to guess Three Guineas' flaws. It is too long, too detailed, and ultimately not as revelatory and exciting as A Room of One's Own. It is, however, important to anyone interested in thinking about women's place in society, and the affect that each has on the other. Along with A Room of One's Own, it should be required reading for young women who (like myself) take their rights and freedom for granted.
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