So few women appeared in the literary canon before the 20th century, Virginia Woolf explains in A Room of One’s Own, because women lacked the education, encouragement and opportunity to become writers. Times have improved, thanks to pioneers like Woolf, but we still have far to go until women have an equal voice with men in literature and film.
Woolf proposes a gifted but uneducated sister of Shakespeare, named Judith, who eventually killed herself because she could find no outlet for her gift. Woolf argues that it is very difficult for genius to arise “among labouring, uneducated, servile people” (Woolf 1022). Those who are held down by class and convention, forced to slave away without schooling, have little opportunity to become great writers.