Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature

By Kathy J. Whitson | Go to book overview
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attention of the visiting princesses, “worldly wise, dutiful, long-suffering queens, wives and mothers” (105). Likewise, “it is in front of the blank page that old and young nuns, with the Mother Abbess herself, sink into deepest thought” (105).

References and Suggested Readings
Dinesen, Isak. “The Blank Page.” Last Tales. New York: Random House, 1957.
Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar, eds. The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1996.
Gubar, Susan. “'The Blank Page' and the Issues of Female Creativity.” Writing and Sexual Difference. Ed. Elizabeth Abel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. 73-93.
Kester-Shelton, Pamela, ed. Feminist Writers. Detroit: St. James, 1996.


Historically, women have been associated with the domestic sphere of work, which encompasses household and family-related tasks, while men have been praised for their “breadwinning” work outside of the home. Feminist scholars have pointed not only to the historical continuity of this division but also to its political ramifications: Men have been able to access the public arenas that grant power, while women have been limited to interaction on the home front. Therefore, the association of women with domestic work has contributed to their silence and invisibility.

Men have often praised women for their ability to “keep the home fires burning, but such acknowledgment has done little to alter the imbalance of power enforced by the division of labor. In her 1911 text addressing this issue, Olive Schreiner noted that although men praised woman for their childbearing capacity, the men's actions rarely communicated such a message:

Through all the ages of the past, when, with heavy womb and hard labor-worn hands, we physically toiled beside man, bearing up by the labor of our bodies the world about us, it was never suggested to us, “You, the child-bearers of the race, have in that one function a labor that equals all others combined; therefore, toil no more in other directions, we pray of you. Neither plant, nor build, nor bend over the grindstone, nor far into the night, while we sleep, sit weaving the clothing we and our children are to wear! Leave it to us...Work no more; every man of the race will work for you!” (109)

Other women take much the same position as Schreiner, and contemporary scholars point to the continued existence of divided labor as an area of feminist concern even though nearly one century has elapsed since Schreiner addressed this issue.

The terms of the debate broaden when variables such as race are considered, for when compared cross-culturally, women's roles are hardly parallel. African


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