Virginia Woolf’s biography (January 25, 1882 – March 28, 1941)

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Virginia Woolf by Beresford

Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer. She was considered one of the most important modernist authors of the 20th century. She was the seventh child in an affluent mixed family of eight from South Kensington, London. Her mother was Julia Prinsep Jackson, model of a pre-Raphaelite artist. She had three children from her first marriage. Woolf’s father, Leslie Stephen, was a remarkable literary man and had a previous daughter. The Stephens produced four more children, including the modernist painter Vanessa Bell. While the boys in the family were under university education, the girls were homeschooled in English classics and Victorian literature.

Virginia Woolf's moeder Julia Prinsep Jackson

Virginia Woolf’s moeder Julia Prinsep Jackson

Woolf’s childhood came to an abrupt end in 1895 with the death of her mother and her first nervous breakdown. Two years later, her half sister, Stella Duckworth, died, a mother figure to her. From 1897 to 1901, she attended the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London‘, where she studied classics and history. She came into contact with early reformers of women’s higher education and the women’s rights movement. Other major influences included her Cambridge-educated brothers and unimpeded access to her father’s vast library.

Virginia Woolf's vader Leslie Stephen c1860

Virginia Woolfs vader Leslie Stephen c1860

Virginia Woolf’s father Leslie Stephen c1860 [/ caption] Encouraged by her father, Woolf started writing professionally in 1900. Her father’s death in 1905 caused another mental breakdown for Woolf. After his death, the Stephen family moved from Kensington to more bohemian Bloomsbury, adopting a free-spirited lifestyle. It was in Bloomsbury where she and the brothers’ intellectual friends shared the artistic and literary Bloomsbury Group.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf 1912

Virginia and Leonard Woolf 1912

In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf and in 1917 the couple founded the Hogarth Press , who published much of her work. They rented a house in Sussex and moved there permanently in 1940. Woolf suffered from her mental illness all her life. She was institutionalized several times and attempted suicide at least twice. Her illness may have been bipolar disorder, for which there was no effective intervention during her lifetime. In 1941, at the age of 59, Woolf died by putting stones in her coat pockets and drowning herself in the River Ouse near Lewes.

During the interbellum period, Woolf was an important part of London’s literary and artistic society. In 1915 she published her first novel, The Voyage Out, through her half-brother’s publishing house, Gerald Duckworth and Company. Her best known works are the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928). She is also known for her essays, including A Room of One’s Own (1929), in which she wrote the much-quoted dictum: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she wants to write fiction.”

Woolf became one of the central subjects of the feminist criticism movement of the 1970s and her works have since garnered much attention and widespread commentary for “inspirational feminism”. Her works have been translated into more than 50 languages. A great deal of literature has been devoted to her life and work, and she has been the subject of plays, novels and films. Woolf is today commemorated by statues, associations devoted to her work and a building at the University of London.


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