As the pioneer of early twentieth-century feminism, Virginia Woolf’s lively mind sparked conversations still relevant today. With her literary prowess, she explored the nuances of life and streams of consciousness through love and pain, beauty and fear, intellect and madness.
So what can we learn from a woman deemed one of the greatest writers and boldest women of all time? A lot!
- Dismantling Patriarchy – Woolf openly refused patriarchal honors such as the Companion of Honour (1935) and honorary degrees from Manchester and Liverpool (1933 and 1939).
- Promoting Peace – Having lived through gruesome wars, she believed in the power of promoting peace through literature. The Woolfs used their Hogarth Press to publish books with unconventional viewpoints and books by foreign authors previously unknown to the British community.
- Feminism – Virginia Woolf challenged the position of women in society and how it limited their creativity. In her non-fiction extended essay, A Room of One’s Own (1929) she writes, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
- Freedom of Thought – Her famous dictum “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind” encourages freedom of thought and expression at a time when quiet indifference was celebrated.
- Writing – By capturing everything from her innermost thoughts to her everyday life and work-in-progress in what she calls a “loose, quick, free style,” she used her diary as a practice book.
- Creativity – In A Room of One’s Own (1929), Woolf emphasizes the power of restlessness that often plagues the artistic mind: “You have to give the thought the playground it deserves. The idea will deem you restless. And you shall be nothing, but glad. For an artist is always just a medium for the creation.”
- Celebrating Sexuality – Virginia Woolf was ahead of her time in exploring gender and sexuality. She not only had an open marriage, but also wrote about bisexuality through her works such as Orlando (1928).
Shafeeka Hafeez grew up escaping into a world of books where she discovered a love for writing and a fascination with trees. When she’s not taking up a new marketing skill, or typing out a blog post, you can find her Googling the best therapy for abandoned cats.