Virginia Woolf Timeline
How It All Went Down
Birth of Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Stephen is born. She is the third of four children born to Julia Prinsep Stephen and her husband Leslie. She also has four half-siblings from her parents' previous marriages. Virginia's parents are fixtures on the London literary and intellectual scene and she grows up in a home full of books.
Leslie Stephen's mentally disabled daughter from his previous marriage, Laura Makepeace Stephen, is sent to live in an institution at the age of 21.
Death of Virginia Woolf's Mother
Virginia Woolf's mother, Julia Prinsep Stephen, dies. The family is plunged into mourning, and Virginia has her first major depressive episode.
Death of Virginia Woolf's Half-Sister
Virginia's half-sister Stella Duckworth, who has been running the Stephen household since the death of their mother in 1895, dies.
Death of Virginia Woolf's Father
Leslie Stephen dies of stomach cancer. The loss of her father prompts a major mental breakdown during which Virginia tries to commit suicide by jumping out of a window. She is briefly institutionalized. Following their father's death, the Stephen children sell their childhood home and buy a house together in the hip Bloomsbury neighborhood of London.
Contributor to Times Literary Supplement
At the age of 23, Virginia begins her professional writing career as a contributor to the Times Literary Supplement. She also takes on several jobs of the sort available to women at the time, such as teaching and reading to elderly ladies.
Death of Virginia Woolf's Brother
The Stephens travel together to Greece. Vanessa and Thoby both become sick with typhoid fever. Vanessa recovers, but Thoby dies at the age of 26. Always close to her siblings, Virginia is heartbroken.
Sister Vanessa Marries Clive Bell
Vanessa Stephen marries the art critic Clive Bell. Virginia and her brother Adrian share a home near the Bells' house.
The Bloomsbury Group—a circle of writers, artists and intellectuals that eventually includes Virginia Woolf, novelist E.M. Forster, economist John Maynard Keynes and others among its members—begins meeting informally at the Bells' home. Virginia and five other members of the group play a practical joke on the British military in which they pretend to be visiting dignitaries from the British colonies to finagle a tour of the British warship the H.M.S. Dreadnought. The incident is known as the Dreadnought Hoax.
Marriage to Leonard Woolf
Virginia Stephen marries Leonard Woolf, a Jewish intellectual who had served in the foreign service. The couple enjoy a happy, if unconventional, marriage that lasts until Virginia's death.
World War I
Great Britain enters World War I. Most members of the Bloomsbury Group are pacifists, and none of the men enlist.
The Voyage Out
Woolf's first novel The Voyage Out is published. She had completed it a year earlier, but publication was delayed by the war and Woolf's lingering depression.
The Woolfs purchase a used printing press, establishing the Hogarth Press in the basement of their home. Their basement project allows Virginia to publish her experimental fiction. Hogarth grows into a respected publishing house, putting out works from authors like Katharine Mansfield, T.S. Eliot and Sigmund Freud.
World War I ends.
Virginia and Leonard Woolf purchase Monk's House, an eighteenth-century cottage located in the countryside village of Rodmell in England. They will maintain the house until Leonard's death in 1969. Also in 1919, Virginia publishes the novel Night and Day.
Affair with Vita Sackville-West
Virginia Woolf publishes Jacob's Room, a novel based on her brother Thoby's death. In this same year she meets Vita Sackville-West, a married writer. The two women begin a love affair—with Leonard Woolf's knowledge and permission—that lasts through the 1920s. After their romantic relationship ends, they remain close friends until Woolf's death.
Move to Bloomsbury
The Woolfs move to Bloomsbury, the bohemian neighborhood of London. The Bloomsbury Group continues to meet informally.
Virginia Woolf publishes Mrs. Dalloway, a modernist novel that follows protagonist Clarissa Dalloway through a single day of her life.
To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf publishes To the Lighthouse, a portrayal of the fictional Ramsay family as they vacation in Scotland. Both Virginia and Leonard Woolf believe it to be the best of her novels so far. It is definitely the bestselling, surpassing sales of all her other books.
Woolf publishes the novel Orlando, a book inspired by Vita Sackville-West. The novel follows the gender-switching title character as he/she moves through several centuries of history.
A Room of One's Own
After giving a lecture series on women's literary abilities and obstacles, Virginia Woolf publishes the book A Room of One's Own. In it she argues that in order to write, a woman must have independence, manifested in material form as an income of £500 per year and a private room where she can write.
Woolf publishes her most conceptually challenging novel, The Waves. The book is written in the voices of six different characters and experiments with traditional notions of character, setting, genre and plot. Woolf describes the book as a "play-poem" rather than a novel.
Death of Half-Brother George Duckworth
George Duckworth, Virginia Woolf's half-brother from her mother's previous marriage, dies.
Death of Nephew Julian Bell
Virginia Woolf's nephew Julian Bell, the oldest son of Vanessa and Clive Bell, is killed while driving an ambulance in the Spanish Civil War.
Death of Half-Brother Gerald Duckworth
Virginia Woolf's half-brother Gerald Duckworth dies in Milan, Italy. Two years later, Woolf will reveal in a memoir that Duckworth and his brother George sexually molested her and her sister Vanessa when they were children.
Woolf publishes the novel The Years.
Woolf publishes Three Guineas, a long essay arguing that if more women occupied positions of power, there would be less war. The book's tone is harsher than her previous feminist tract A Room of One's Own, and proves controversial upon publication.
World War II
Great Britain declares war on Germany, marking England's entry into World War II. Fearing Nazi persecution due to Leonard's Jewish ethnicity, the Woolfs make plans to commit suicide if England is invaded. They leave their home in London and move out to Monk's House at Rodmell, where they hope they will be safer.
The Woolfs' London home and the Hogarth Press offices are destroyed during the Blitz, the Germans' campaign of terror bombing over the city. Their papers and printing press are salvaged and brought to their country home in Rodmell. Virginia is working on a novel but is struggling with her mind; the stress of her work and the war brings on another serious bout of depression.
Virginia Woolf Commits Suicide
Convinced she will not recover from her current battle with mental illness, Virginia Woolf fills the pockets of her coat with stones and drowns herself in the Ouse River near Monk's House. Her body is discovered three weeks later. Leonard Woolf chooses to have the body cremated, and the ashes are scattered at Monk's House.
Between the Acts
Virginia Woolf's final novel, Between the Acts, is published posthumously.
A Writer's Diary
Leonard Woolf publishes A Writer's Diary, a collection of Virginia Woolf's personal journals.
Death of Husband Leonard Woolf
Leonard Woolf dies. His ashes are scattered at Monk's House.