This weeks Illustrated Women in History was submitted by Elisa Braga
“It seemed to her such nonsense – inventing differences, when people, heaven knows, were different enough without that.”
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was a British Modernist writer and one of the first women to write openly about gender and sexuality in her time. Her stories are commonly filled with the characters’ reflections over life and their own feelings and selves. Woolf was a master at writing what we call the “stream of consciousness” style, in which the reader is able to perceive the character’s mind completely, seeing the thoughts as they occur. Among Woolf’s works, “Mrs. Dalloway” (1925), “To the Lighthouse”(1925), “A Room of One’s Own”(1929) and “Orlando”(1928) are notoriously famous for their groundbreaking content.
“A Room of One’s Own” is a study about writing as a woman, emphasising the historical, economical and social context that female writers have had to face over history. She affirms that even if women were to have the same intellect and creativity as a man, society as it is would not give her opportunity to develop or showcase her talent. In “Orlando”, she writes a tale that defies gender stereotypes, in which a young nobleman one day wakes up to find that he has become a woman. The book is homage to Woolf’s close friend and lover Vita Sackville-West, and it remains relevant to gender studies to this day.
Woolf had a troubled life, filled with depressive episodes which culminated in her suicide at 59. Nevertheless, she played a great role in modern literature, creating a space for women which granted a newfound freedom of speech to generations to come. Her books are not only extremely important in nature, but also interesting and fun to read, which made me want to choose her as a woman who has made a significant contribution in history. I particularly relate to her understanding of introspection and solitude, which she sees as an essential way of knowing one’s self. Her writings remain relevant after almost a century, playing a key part in history and influencing our lives with her words.
“Orlando naturally loved solitary places, vast views, and to feel himself for ever and ever and ever alone.”
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