“A woman must have money and a Google Doodle
room of her own if she is to write fiction,” – one of Virginia Woolf’s most famous quotes.
Today marks what would have been the modernist novelist Virginia Woolf’s 136th birthday. Although an arbitrary celebration for one of British literature’s most pertinent figures, to celebrate the occasion Google have created her very own Google Doodle.
A Google Doodle is a temporary alteration to the Google logo on the search engine’s homepage. These doodles tend to commemorate holidays, historical events and people and their achievements. The first doodle was seen in August 1998 and was to celebrate the Burning Man festival:
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was a British novelist and essay writer. Her unique literary style established her to be considered one of the foremost influential writers of the 20th century and helped begin the modernist movement in the arts in the wake of the First World War. Alongside James Joyce and T.S. Elliot, she is well-known as being the pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness style of prose. This style of writing merged into the narrative, allowing readers to gain insight into the thoughts and memories of the characters opposed to just actions. This new and experimental style provided English novels with a new voice beyond what the Victorian era’s writing provided.
Woolf is revered for her works such as Mrs Dalloway (1925), To The Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), A Room of One’s Own (1929) and The Waves (1931). Mrs Dalloway, for example, provided an insight into the life of a woman going through menopause alongside a PTSD suffering former soldier. As one of her best-known novels, the themes and style of writing are now celebrated as revolutionary.
In Google’s blog-post about the Doodle they note that many of her non-fiction works showcased, “Woolf’s unflinching feminist perspective by documenting the gendered intellectual stratification and resulting male-dominated power dynamics of the period.”
Since her death, Woolf was revived as a feminist icon, celebrated for her aforementioned writing style and famous for her dictum that, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” This message from her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, has become a key part of modern social theory; that for a woman to achieve success in her career she needs financial independence and a room (away from her children). It was this sentiment that brought about the idea that hypothetically Shakespeare could have had a similarly talented sister who could have been ignored artistically because of her gender. This ideal, allowed light to be shone on female authors of Shakespeare’s time such as Aphra Behn and the Bronte sisters.
Woolf infamously suffered from depression her whole life, which often bleeds through into her writing. She eventually took her own life in 1941 during the height of the Blitz, by wading into the River Ouse, Sussex with stones in her pockets.
The story of her life and death, intertwined with some of her characters, was best-depicted in a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winning novel, The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Cunningham even pays homage to Woolf’s stream of consciousness by placing significance in his plot on the thought and memory of the protagonists, opposed action in the physical world. In 2003, the novel was produced into a film starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moor and Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf herself.
Google’s blog-post also reveals some of the illustrator’s early drafts of the Doodle, before settling on the appropriately eloquent image live on the Google homepage: