Amidst a campaign to fund a lifesize statue of Woolf in Richmond, a series of new books have found a different way of engaging with her workby Francesca Wade / April 3, 2019 / Leave a comment
“We think back through our mothers if we are women,” wrote Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own, lamenting women’s absence from the literary canon and the history books. But since her suicide in 1941, at the age of 59, Woolf herself has become an icon: her life and work are the subject of regular homage, from academic studies and biographies to novels, television series and a recent ballet. In 2018, a major exhibition inspired by her work opened at Tate St Ives and travelled to Sussex and Cambridge (places strongly associated with Woolf), while the film Vita and Virginia, exploring her affair with Vita Sackville-West, is set for release in July. Woolf’s legacy is thriving; she remains a powerful figurehead for generations of women to “think back through.”
Woolf herself spent significant time contemplating how posterity would view her and her friends. She spent most of her life in London, yet noted sardonically how the cityscape reminded her, at every turn, of women’s exclusion from public affairs: wandering through the streets, decorated with images of hoary statesmen to celebrate their service to the British Empire, she was intrigued by the occasional appearance of a woman’s statue, which seemed to represent an alternative history in which she might be able to locate herself. Recent campaigns to erect a statue of Millicent Fawcett outside parliament, or feature Jane Austen on a bank note, have also stressed the importance of such representation (less than three per cent of Britain’s statues feature non-royal women), and followed Woolf’s own call for women to take their rightful place not only in their country’s institutions, but in its physical landscape.
Today, Woolf herself is commemorated by the National Trust’s preservation of her Sussex home, Monk’s House, and a bust by Stephen Tomlin in Bloomsbury’s Tavistock Square, her address between 1924 and 1939. An enterprising local arts charity, Aurora Metro, has launched a campaign to raise £50,000 to install a life-size statue of Woolf in Richmond, the borough where she lived from 1914 to 1924. If funding targets are met, Woolf will sit for eternity on a bench, gazing peacefully out over the River Thames.
In his short book, published in association with the campaign, Peter…