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Feminist Sundays

Feminist Sundays: On the Death of Elizabeth Jane Howard

Hello, everyone!

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Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

Today, I wanted to do something different for our Feminist Sundays. English author Elizabeth Jane Howard died this week and, although quite an underrated and overlooked writer, the newspapers and tabloids saved a little space for her. This is an example:

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It’s 2014. I really, really hoped to see a change, a little change in society. Yet, an English paper still insists on defining a woman by who she had a romantic and sexual relationship with while men are defined by themselves, by their work. Had Elizabeth Jane Howard been a man, there would not be any mention, or maybe a tiny one at the end of the article, of their partner. And, just to prove how ridiculous it is, let’s change the article’s title and image it was Kingsley Amis who had died. What about: “Husband of Elizabeth Jane Howard died”? It is unthinkable and mostly impossible to find such a headline, but, when a woman dies, her husband and/or children appear in the first lines. And it makes me angry. Just yesterday I was reading a book on the patriarchy and defining women by who they engage in sexual intercourse, since it also considered the case of concubines, dates back to Mesopotamian times, but it is 2014 and it is necessary that we change this. Also, Elizabeth Jane Howard had two husbands previous to Amis and many works published as well. So, why was it necessary to name her husband and step-son?

I am currently reading The Cazalet Chronicles: The Light Years and it is a wonderful, inspiring and masterful work. It is the perfect mix between Mrs. Dalloway and Downton Abbey and Howard explores the unthinkable, the unmentionable for the women and men living in the 1930’s: the curse, getting an abortion, doing anything to please your husband because your mother told you that was the way it worked, unpleasant and forced relationships. And yet, her work is overlooked and underrated.

Here it is to Elizabeth Jane Howard. An amazing and inspiring writer on her own right.

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16 Comments

  • madamebibilophile

    Really interesting post – thanks! I’m very interested in the interwar period as a time of change for women (especially since your excellent recommendation of Flappers, which I’ve bought for 4 people so far and counting!) so I’ll definitely look at The Cazalet Chronicles.

    • Elena

      Thanks! It’s a family saga, so she’ll explore more than the interwar period in her works, and I’m sure she’ll do it from such a feminist and intelligent perspective.

      You bought Flappers for 4 people? Wow, I’m impressed and really happy. It is a wonderful book, isn’t it?

      • madamebibilophile

        Nearly all my friends and family have birthdays in November, so between that and Christmas Flappers was a big help to me! Everyone seems to like it – I described it to my Dad to ask if he thought his wife would like it for her birthday and his response was “Yes, I think so, but get it anyway because I’d like to read it!” My sister-in-law has borrowed my copy after she spotted on the bookshelf on Christmas day….Flappers has served me very well!

    • Elena

      Isn’t it too sad? I think she’s such a great writer that she deserved some space and time.

      ANY contribution is welcomed and celebrated and certainly, rage and rejection are very much (and sadly) part of a feminist everyday life.

  • yasmine rose

    That is shocking! Thanks for pointing it out. I am ashamed to say I have never read anything by Elizabeth Jane Howard but The Cazalet Chronicles sounds interesting. I will have to read some of her work soon.

  • María

    Very good point, Elena. One we have been highlighting since Kate Millet´s eye-opener, Sexual Politics, was published in 1969, and still… But let us Never Give Up!

  • amanda

    Ugh. It suggests to me not just the patriarchal society but our continued tabloid fascination with anything that might speak of scandal (affairs!). Not the sorts of news I would look for. That said, if she was overlooked & underrated I can see that it might make sense to mention her connection to her more famous ex-husband. Just not in the headline. Or maybe I’m just sad that we’re still at a place where the only way a woman might be known is because of her husband.

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