Virginia Woolf By Ellie wolfe

Born: January 25th, 1882 in Kensington, Middlesex, England

Died: March 28th, 1941 in River Ouse, near Lewes, Sussex, England

Portrait of Virginia Woolf

Early Life

  • Woolf had very well-off parents, Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth Stephen
  • Had four siblings and three half-siblings
  • She and her sister Vanessa were sexually abused by two half-siblings: Gerald and George Duckworth
  • Although her brothers were sent to Cambridge, Virginia and her sisters were educated at home (still a luxury that few young girls had)
Talland House at St Ives, Cornwall, where Woolf's family spent their summers. It also inspired the setting for her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse

Mental Illness

  • Virginia suffered from multiple mental breakdowns throughout her life
  • First breakdown was in 1895 when she was just 13, after her mother's death
  • Second breakdown was in 1897 after her sister's death
  • Institutionalized in 1904 after the death of her father
  • Plagued by periodic mood swings and associated illnesses
  • Spent 1910, 1912, and 1913 at a home for women with nervous disorders
  • Modern scholars believe the reason for these breakdowns had to do with the sexual abuse that she suffered as a child
"I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate." --Woolf's suicide note


  • After the death of her mother, she took up classes in Ancient Greek, Latin, German, and history at the Ladies' Department of King's College, London
  • Met some of the early reformers of women's higher education such as: Lilian Faithfull, Clara Pater, and George Warr
Virginia and her sister Vanessa

Bloomsbury Group and Leonard Woolf

  • Joined the intellectual circle of writers and artists
  • Members during that time included: Lytton Stachey, Clive Bell, Rupert Brooke, Saxon Sydney-Turner, John Maynard Keynes, Vanessa Bell (her sister!), Duncan Grant, David Garnett, Roger Fry, and Leonard Woolf
  • Here she met her husband, Leonard Woolf, a Jew
  • Although she was fairly anti-Semitic, she still married Leonard Woolf
  • The couple collaborated professionally, founding the Hogarth Press in 1917, which published Woolf's novels, as well as works by T. S. Eliot, Laurens van der Post, and more
  • Also met Vita Sackville-West there, and they had a secret relationship until the early 1930s.
Virgnia Woolf with some members of the Bloomsbury Group
Virginia Woolf and her husband, Leonard Woolf
"How I hated marrying a Jew--What a snob I was, for they have immense vitality" --Letter to Ethel Smyth


  • .The Voyage Out (1915)
  • Two Stories (1917)
  • Kew Gardens (1919)
  • Night and Day (1919)
  • Monday or Tuesday (1921)
  • Jacob's Room (1922)
  • Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown (1923)
  • The Common Reader (1925)
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
  • To the Lighthouse (1927)
  • Orlando (1928)
  • A Room of One's Own (1929)
  • The Waves (1931)
  • The Common Reader (1932)
  • Flush (1933)
  • The Years (1937)
  • Three Guineas (1938)
  • Roger Fry (1940)
  • Between the Acts (1941) *published after her death
  • Woolf's books were popular at her time, especially because she was one of the first author's to gain popularity using the stream-of-consciousness technique. While she was alive, Orlando was her best-seller, although Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando were all made into films.
The original cover to her 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway. All of her book covers were illustrated by her sister, Vanessa Bell, an artist and member of the Bloomsbury Group
The original cover for her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse, also illustrated by her sister Vanessa Bell

Writing Style

  • Woolf was one of the first authors to use the stream-of-consciousness technique, which used interior monologue--a character's thoughts and feelings as they occur--to explore the human psyche
  • Focused on the underlying psychological and emotional motives of characters
  • Concerned with the difficulty of human relationships in the modern age
  • Lyrical novelist, highly experimental novels
  • Part of the Modernist Movement, a movement which encouraged a self-conscious break with traditional ways of writing, in both prose and poetry fiction with a conscious desire to overturn traditional modes of representation and express the new sensibilities of the time
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” --Diary entry

An Important Feminist Then and Now

  • Woolf was a feminist, and was especially vocal about women's right to a good education, especially because she lacked her own, and had to watch her brother's go to school
  • Her works, A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas are both feminism critiques
  • A Room of One's Own focuses around the lack of opportunities that women receive because of their gender, including many not being able to be formally educated in school, and was originally a lecture given at Newnham College and Girton College in Cambridge University. It focuses on a few fictional characters, including Judith Shakespeare, William's sister who wants to be educated but cannot.
  • Three Guineas focuses on the three questions: "How should war be prevented?", "Why does the government not support education for women?" and, "Why are women not allowed to engage in professional work?" This work not only illustrates her feminist ideas, but also her pacifism.
  • Woolf regained massive popularity in the 1970's during the feminist movement.
“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.” --A Room of One's Own
The original cover of Woolf's 1929 feminist novel, A Room of One's Own, drawn by her sister Vanessa Bell


  • Woolf committed suicide on March 28th, 1941, at 59 years old.
  • Body was found three weeks later on April 18th
  • After completing Between the Acts, but deciding not to publish it, she fell into a depression
  • House in London was destroyed during the Blitz
  • Drown herself by filling her overcoat pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse near her home
Virginia Woolf's suicide note. See below for transcript:

Suicide Note

Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.


  • Woolf's works became important text for the feminist movement in the 1970's
  • Although she did not publicize it as much during the time, later examination of her diaries show her pure hatred of women not receiving education, and was incredibly bitter that her brother's got the opportunities that she did not
  • Her life and books have inspired other author's works including, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers, and Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar




Created with images by nicknich4 - "virginia woolf"

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