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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > May 2019 > A room for two

A room for two

Virginia Woolf is inspiring a new generation of women writers, says Francesca Wade
© IANDAGNALL COMPUTING / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

“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.

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InProspect's May issue: Tom Clark explores how British politics has ended up in crisis and suggests that a proper constitution could have avoided the current chaos and may well be necessary now to avoid the same problems in the future. Elsewhere in the issue: Kevin Maguire profiles Labour deputy leader Tom Watson who says that “if needs must” he would join a government of national unity. Max Rashbrooke examines Jacinda Ardern’s government in New Zealand and the ways the country is being transformed, ultimately suggesting that it could be an example for Britain to follow. Also, Stefanie Marsh follows the work of a donor detective who is helping children conceived by anonymous sperm donation to find their biological parents and Francesca Wade shows how Virginia Woolf is inspiring a new generation of women writers.