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International Socialism, Summer 1965


Julie Fancy

Half a People


From International Socialism, No.21, Summer 1965, p.30.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A Shavian Guide to the Intelligent Woman
Barbara Watson
Chatto & Windus, 35s.

In 1895 Shaw said, ‘No change has taken place in this century which has been more obviously a change for the better than the relations between men and women.’ Since then we have got the vote, which we have misused, as we have not won other advantages which Shaw felt were imperative. Today women become barristers, doctors, scientists, and politicians. We can marry without becoming ‘a slave of a slave which is the worst form of slavery’. It is children, not husbands, who restrict the intelligent women from her career. Shaw believed that the country needed the women’s share of brains and governing ability; today we are needed to fill out the social services as teachers, nurses and social workers. Shaw’s solution lay in the abolition of the family: ‘All one can say is, roughly, that the homelier the home, the more familiar the family, the worse for everyone concerned.’ This is excellent in theory but since the church, state and commercial concerns supplant the parent at the moment we cannot feel too happy about this.

However these ideas are familiar. Shaw’s best work, as the author shows, is his portrayal of women as individuals in his plays. He created vital, forceful women like Candida, Major Barbara and St Joan. These women are far more self-assured than those created in modern novels by writers such as Iris Murdoch and Doris Lessing.

This is a well-written book; more satisfactory as a straight-forward guide to Shaw than as a roundabout study of women.

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