Why Google Celebrated Virginia Woolf's 136th Birthday With a Doodle

Google celebrates her work with a commemorative doodle.


Google celebrated what would have been Virginia Woolf’s 136th birthday on Thursday, with a commemorative homepage doodle that paid tribute to the iconic author. Woolf’s works are read in classrooms all over the world — Orlando saw a nobleman become a woman, Mrs Dalloway captured the anxious mood of a postwar England, and A Room of One’s Own has been hailed as one of the great works of feminist literature.

Born in Kensington in 1882 (today a part of London), Woolf was educated at the home she shared with her well-connected parents. She suffered loss at an early age: her mother died when Woolf was just 13, and her half-sister died two years later. She went on to study Greek, German and Latin at King’s College London, after which she became involved with the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals that also included E.M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes. She married Leonard Woolf in 1912, another member of the group, and three years later she published her first novel, The Voyage Out.

Woolf died in 1941. In an obituary, the New York Times described her as “the author of fifteen books of high quality, in which the critics met up with at least four different kinds of thinking and writing. This led to her being characterized as ‘the multiple Mrs. Woolf.’”

Thursday’s doodle was produced by Louise Pomeroy, a London-based graphic artist whose clients include the New York Times, Forbes, Wired and CNN. Google also provided a number of Pomeroy’s draft versions of the doodle:

Woolf and her husband also printed a number of books, after purchasing a printing press in 1917. The Hogarth Press, named after their house, gradually developed into a fully-fledged business, and Woolf printed most of her later novels through the setup.

Woolf vanished on March 28, 1941, at the age of 59. Her body was recovered from the River Ouse near her Sussex home on April 18. In a note she left for her husband, she said that she heard voices and “cannot fight any longer.” The coroner gave a verdict that she had committed suicide.

Google has a tradition of commemorating famous figures with its homepage drawings. The company has previously paid tribute to quantum physicist Max Born, biochemist Har Gobind Khorana, and the “father of montage” Sergei Eisenstein. It not just people who have received the doodle treatment, though — Google notably paid tribute to the hole punch in a November 2017 doodle.

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