Virginia Woolf (née Adeline Virginia Stephen, 1882–1941) was born the seventh child of eight to a blended, artistic family, and raised in the London neighbourhood of South Kensington. Along with her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she became a key player in a group of literary, intellectual, and artistic friends later known as the Bloomsbury Group.
Her first novel, The Voyage Out, was published by Duckworth in 1915. In 1917, Woolf and her husband, the writer and political theorist Leonard Woolf, bought a used handpress and founded Hogarth Press with the intention of publishing smaller works that larger firms would rarely consider. Woolf started publishing through Hogarth Press, which provided her with the unique freedom to experiment with her writing without the restrictions previously imposed on her by editors and publishers. As well as being a novelist, she was a prolific essayist, literary critic, reviewer, and biographer. Her essay, A Room of One’s Own, is considered one of the most influential arguments for women’s intellectual freedom and financial independence.
Woolf suffered from mental breakdowns throughout her life, the first occurring after her mother died in 1895. She was institutionalized several times, and attempted suicide at least twice. In 1941, a few months prior to the publication of her final novel, Between the Acts, she suffered a major depressive period and, leaving a note for Leonard that proclaimed, ‘I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been,’ took her own life.