In 1912 Virginia Woolf attended a meeting of the Women’s Cooperative Guild at which women delegates debated and formulated their most pressing needs and the political strategies best suited for achieving these. The letter Woolf wrote to Margaret Llewellyn Davies based on her experience of this meeting became the introductory letter to Life As We Have Known It
, a collection of narratives by working-class women, detailing their experiences of working-class life and the part played by the Co-operative Guild in offering both education and support (Llewellyn Davies, 1931/1977). Throughout Woolf’s introductory letter she grapples with her own ambivalence to a social structure, based on differences of class, which she believes to be ultimately divisive, however sympathetic she might be personally to the women’s cause as articulated by the Guild delegates and by the stories that make up Life As We Have Known It
. The gap between middle- and working-class women was, for Woolf, so great that, however much one wished to make common cause,
[o]ne could not be Mrs Giles of Durham because one’s body had never stood at the wash-tub, one’s hands had never wrung and scrubbed and chopped up whatever the meat may be that makes a miner’s supper. The picture therefore was always letting in irrelevancies. One sat in an armchair or read a book. One saw landscapes and seascapes (Llewellyn Davies, 1931/1977, p. xxiii).