Kathy Young

Member of CADS (Corvus Amateur Drama Society)
“The Women’s Room” by Marilyn French

In 1977, when I was 19, I bought a shiny (literally as there was silver on the front of it) new paperback called “The Women’s Room” by Marilyn French. 43 years later I can still recall how I felt after reading it. I was challenged by it, shocked by it, saddened and exhilarated by it.
Following the story of a conventional young American woman in the 1950s through her gradual feminist awakening was a revelation to me. Neither of my parents were stereotypical of their genders but their roles were defined and as they had separate bedrooms for as long as I can remember, sexual relations were never a consideration let alone a topic of conversation.
The book was criticised for being pessimistic about women’s lives and for being anti-men but I loved it. I’d battled my way through Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” but, to honest, French’s novel was easy to read and I could put into context what the character was doing. Marriage, affairs, depression, divorce, same sex relationships, the aftermath of rape, the dichotomy between parenthood and sexual independence and much more all in one book were things I just hadn’t really thought about . Naïve perhaps but it was a long time ago!
I picked it off the bookshelf the other day and flicked through it. I can honestly say that it is ‘of its time’, but for me, it was a turning point.
Would I recommend reading it? Yes.
Do you have to bear in mind when it was written? I think so.
Have things changed since 1977 for women? Not as much as I would like.