"A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life." -Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf is one of the worlds most iconic feminist writers, who lived one of the richest literary lives, despite all of the events she overcame.
Virginia was born in Kensington, England to the Stephen family. She had three siblings, Vanessa, Thoby, and Adrian, and several other half brothers. Her freethinking parents supported all of their children's creative pursuits, and it was no surprise that Virginia began writing so well at such a young age. It has been noted that Virginia was a lighthearted child, but at the age of six, she was sexually abused by two of her older half brothers, which would change her forever.
As she grew older, Virginia began to show signs of depression. Her depression became more prevalent after her mother died at the age of 49, and Virginia became increasingly unstable. Many people have noted that Virginia also showed signs of anorexia, and after her father died when she was only 18, she had to be hospitalized after a breakdown.
Despite all of the tragedy she faced at such a young age, Virginia Woolf did not let it deter her from achieving literary greatness. In her early 20's, Virginia moved to a small house in Bloomsbury, where the famous literary Bloomsbury Group would soon be founded. It was there where Virginia met her husband, Leonard Woolf, and where her career began.
Virginia Woolf has published numerous modernist novels, all which where revolutionarily modern and liberal in their content. Woolf, unlike most writers in her time, wrote about homosexuality, gender identity, feminism, and mental illness. In her novel Orlando, Woolf discusses the idea of gender as a social construct. In her feminist essay, A Room Of One's Own, she discusses equal pay. She also openly attacked the patriarchy, and how corrupt the political system was for not valuing women's opinions. Almost a century later, these issues are still extremely prevalent.
Outside of her writing, Virginia waved her feminist flag high. She often spoke out against the sexist inequality that marriage brought upon a woman, and the double standard that men can be sexually active, but women should stay pure. Virginia, however, was determined not to succumb to the sexist standard of her time, and had a legendary affair with Vita Sackville West. Although she was married, her husband understood that Virginia's actions were necessary to keep herself in a somewhat stable mental state.
Virginia Woolf had a remarkable yet tragic life, and in her last letter to her husband, spoke of all of the happiness she experienced. She told him that she was once again loosing her mind and slipping back into an unstable state of mind. Her last day, she filled the pockets of a trench coach with stones and walked in to a river behind her house, killing herself.
A writer as brilliant as Virginia Woolf is difficult to come by, and her works such as To The Lighthouse are astounding in their detail and feminist symbolism. Woolf stands as my most admired feminist icon due to her strength and impeccable writing skills. She overcame tragedy after tragedy, and still wound out to be one of the world's most influential feminist writers.
Article written by: Claire Halloran (@c.eeh)
Art by: Bett Norris