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Educating Virginia Woolf

25 January 2017 marks the 136th birthday of one of King’s greatest literary stars: Virginia Woolf.

Between the ages of 15 and 20 Woolf (then Adeline Virginia Stephen) took a variety of courses at the King’s Ladies’ Department in Kensington. Her studies between 1897 and 1902 were of considerable length and depth, contradicting the impression given by some biographers and Woolf herself that she was almost entirely self-educated. Woolf’s sister, the painter Vanessa Bell (then Stephen), also studied Latin, art and architecture at King’s Ladies’ Department from 1899 to 1901.

From the 1870s King’s was a pioneer of higher education for women, offering female students the chance to be awarded a degree more than 40 years before Oxford and some 70 years before Cambridge. Woolf’s studies at King’s – some at degree level — were in Continental and English History, German, Latin, and Elementary and Advanced Greek (providing the foundation for her lifelong engagement with Greek Literature).

Woolf is commemorated at King’s by the building named after her at the Strand Campus, and by a waxwork specially commissioned from artist Eleanor Cook.

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Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

Writer and Feminist icon

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