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Virginia Woolf may soon have a London Tube stop named after her. And you can help make it happen.

Woolf is on the list of famous women being promoted as part of the City of Women London. Organized by the Women of the World foundation, the public history project is modeled after a similar one in New York.

The idea started with Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, who created an alternative map of the New York subway system that renamed stops after women, non-binary people, and female groups. The map turned into an iconic poster that has been updated to include new additions.

Vote for Virginia 

The London version, coordinated by Solnit, Jelly-Schapiro, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Emma Watson, reimagines the city’s classic Tube map as one that celebrates women who’ve made their mark on the city. And of course, that would be likely to include Woolf.

Suggestions for the London Tube map will be gathered by consulting with historians, writers, curators, community organizers, women’s rights organizations, museums, and librarians and through an open call to the public to submit ideas. Your vote for Woolf — or the woman or non-binary individual of your choice — can be sent to cityofwomenlondon@gmail.com or submitted via an online form.

How does it impact our imaginations that so many places in so many cities are named after men and so few after women? What kind of landscape do we move through when streets and parks and statues and bridges are gendered … and it’s usually one gender, and not another? What kind of silence arises in places that so seldom speak of and to women? This map was made to sing the praises of the extraordinary women who have, since the beginning, been shapers and heroes of this city that has always been, secretly, a City of Women. And why not the subway? This is a history still emerging from underground, a reminder that it’s all connected, and that we get around.
—Rebecca Solnit

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Not everyone can say they spent the 4th of July with Virginia Woolf. But Kathleen Donnelly and I can.

Three years ago, on July 4, 2017, Kathleen and I spent a day together in London. While there we visited a life-sized wax figure of Woolf on display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at 22 Kingsway at King’s College. It was installed Oct. 21, 2015, by artist Eleanor Crook.

Gaining entry

We were not able to walk right in, however, as entry to the building is secure. However, a kind security guard allowed us inside after noticing us standing out front with our noses pressed against the window. There, we were able to look around and take photos of the wax figure and the exhibit that surrounds it.

The location is significant, as Woolf was a student at the former King’s Ladies’ Department where she took classes in Greek, Latin, history and German between 1897 and 1902.

The Virginia Woolf display in the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London, is straight up this set of stairs on the left.

The life-size wax figure of Virginia Woolf in a wardrobe of her own installed in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London.

The Woolf figure holds a copy of “A Room of One’s Own” with a Vanessa Bell cover.

One panel in the Woolf display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London

A quote on a panel in the Woolf display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building, King’s College, London

 

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The temperature was 34 degrees and a light dusting of snow covered the ground when my copy of London in Bloom by Georgianna Lane arrived in my Ohio mailbox several weeks ago.

With its cover photo depicting pale pink roses draping a doorway, arching over a window, and filling the basket of a matching pink bicycle parked out front, the book introduced a welcome breath of spring into my life that day. We need that even more now.

Turning from fear to beauty

The coronavirus has infected our globe, and many of us are sheltering at home, attempting to stave off the ugliness of anxiety. So there is no better time to open a book full of the floral beauty of London, Virginia Woolf’s favorite city.

London in Bloom is the third and final book in Lane’s Cities in Bloom series, published by Abrams. To capture the images that fill it, she spent many early morning hours photographing the floral beauty and architectural detail of England’s capitol before residents and tourists clogged the streets, sidewalks, and parks. I daresay she would find that task easier now.

On “Tea and Tattle”

I first heard of the book on episode 27 of Francesca Wade’s “Tea and Tattle” podcast. Wade describes it as “most beautiful guide to the city’s parks, gardens, florists and hotels and should be on any London-lover’s shelf!”

Much like Woolf, a lover of gardens who incorporated them into her life and into her work, the author shares her affection for London’s gardens in her Introduction to the book:

Perhaps not surprisingly, my most memorable London experiences have been inextricably interwoven with gardens… the open spaces of London have seeped into my consciousness, awakened my imagination, and become part of me” (7).

From parks and gardens to floral displays

London in Bloom is divided into four sections:

  • parks and gardens
  • floral boutiques
  • market flowers and
  • floral displays.

Each is introduced by a page or two of text that shares Lane’s thoughts and experiences, then filled with gorgeous photos of flowers and architectural details — brickwork, tile-work, doorways — that enhance them.

Whimsical touches are also introduced in the form of light cotton floral print dresses in a shop window, teacups and cake on a tea table, and London’s trademark red phone booth and double decker buses.

Beauty and practicality

Despite some touches of red, the theme throughout is pastel — from flowers to buildings to cover pages. But the book includes the practical, as well as the beautiful.

The back section gives us instructions on creating our own London-style bouquet, a field guide to London’s spring blooming trees and shrubs, and an introductory guide to springtime blooms throughout the city.

London in Bloom provides delectable refreshment for the eye and the soul in our troubled times, whether you are a lover of flowers, a fan of London, or just in need of a bit of balm.

 

 

 

 

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Five radical women writers living in a square in a London neighborhood. The square is Mecklenburgh. The neighborhood is Bloomsbury. And one of the women writers is Virginia Woolf.

The book that tells the story of the five independent women writers who lived in Mecklenburgh Square at various times between the two world wars is Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars, just published by Faber & Faber.

Besides Woolf, the women Wade discusses include detective novelist Dorothy Sayers, modernist poet Hilda Doolittle (known as HD), the maverick classicist Jane Ellen Harrison, and the economic historian Eileen Power.

The publisher’s website describes the book this way:

Francesca Wade’s spellbinding group biography explores how these trailblazing women pushed the boundaries of literature, scholarship, and social norms, forging careers that would have been impossible without these rooms of their own.

And one reviewer called Woolf “The presiding genius of this original and erudite book,” describing her “essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ [as] provided the rallying cry, whether consciously or not, for five remarkable women, all drawn at some point in their careers to Bloomsbury’s Mecklenburgh Square.”

Glowing reviews

I plan to obtain a copy of Square Haunting and review it here. After all, Mecklenburgh Square has a special meaning for me, as it is one of the Woolf sites I visited in 2016 when Cecil Woolf, Virginia and Leonard’s nephew who passed away last June, led me on a six-mile walking tour of Bloomsbury. It was a most memorable day.

For now, though, here are a few quotes from the glowing reviews of Wade’s first book that have already been published online.

Wade’s book rises above the publishing cliches to tell a deeper story about women’s autonomy in the early 20th century, about their work and education, politics and activism. What emerges is an eloquent, pellucid, sometimes poignant study of five female intellectuals, each of whom disdained convention to fulfil their potential as thinkers and writers. – Review by Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Guardian

It is a pleasure to fall into step with the eloquent, elegant Wade as she stamps the streets of literary London. I would give a copy to every young woman graduating from university and wondering who and how to be … There is much to inspire. – The Times Literary Supplement

Wade is adept at evoking the gritty texture of the times, taking us seamlessly from the interior lives of her subjects into the world they inhabited and back again. – Ariane Bankes, Spectator

The site of the building in Mecklenburgh Square in which Virginia Woolf lived. Cecil and I paused here during our 2016 tour of Bloomsbury.

 

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Editor’s Note: Maggie Humm provided Blogging Woolf with the story and images of her experience working with France Culture radio and the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage on programs about Virginia Woolf.

By Maggie Humm

A cold, windy day in April 2019 saw me walking and talking in Kensington for France Culture radio about Virginia Woolf’s London childhood and her own daily walks with her father. Thankfully, my talk didn’t have to be in French or delivered sideways as in The West Wing.

Maggie Humm with the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage in St. Ives

France Culture has over 3,000 podcasts and items about Virginia Woolf. Director Simonetta Greggio simply said, “I love Woolf.”

Woolf and France past

As Blogging Woolf readers know, Charles Mauron translated “Time Passes” from To the Lighthouse in Commerce as early as Winter 1926, and Woolf’s works were translated into French more quickly than into other languages.

Woolf knew several leading French intellectuals including Mauron – Jacques Raverat and Jacques-Émile Blanche – and the translation of Mrs Dalloway had a preface by André Maurois. Simone de Beauvoir discusses Woolf in The Second Sex.

To the lighthouse

Top of my bucket list however was visiting Godrevy Lighthouse thanks to Lolita Rivé of Elephant Productions who invited me to present “Cornwall Through the Eyes of Virginia Woolf” as part of the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation au Voyage.

It’s not possible to convey my excitement and delight reading To the Lighthouse at Godrevy Lighthouse, as well as reading The Waves on St. Ives beach.

Maggie Humm heads to Godrevy Lighthouse with the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage. As Woolf said about St. Ives Regatta Day – it made her ‘think of a French picture’ (MOB: 132). Vive la France!

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