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Virginia Woolf

Ambivalent Activist

Clara Jones

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Rescues the particularities of Virginia Woolf’s political and social participation, tracing her career as an activist across forty-five years

Clara Jones re-reads Woolf’s fiction and non-fiction in light of her examination of the details of Woolf’s involvement with Morley College, the People’s Suffrage Federation, the Women’s Co-operative Guild and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. Drawing on extensive archival research into these organisations, Jones also positions Woolf’s activism with regard to the institutional contexts in which she worked. Virginia Woolf: Ambivalent Activist demonstrates the degree to which Woolf was sensitive to the internal politics and conflicts of the bodies she was associated with and the ways in which she interrogated her ambivalent attitudes towards her activism throughout her literary career.

Focusing on texts that represent the range of Woolf’s literary output, this book includes essays, unpublished sketches, Woolf’s social realist 1919 novel Night and Day, and her final, visionary novel Between the Acts. This approach to Woolf’s writing takes an integrated view, incorporating her juvenilia and foregrounding Woolf’s critically neglected early novels. Rather than offering readings of Woolf’s well-known ‘political’ works, Jones instead uncovers the unexpected ways in which Woolf’s activism made its way into unlikely texts.

Key Features

  • Includes two new transcriptions of material by Woolf: the ‘Report on Teaching at Morley College’ (‘Morley Sketch’) and the ‘Cook Sketch’
  • Provides insights into the histories of neglected institutions through accounts of Woolf’s activism
  • Explores a range of texts, reading across genres with an alertness to class and gender politics in each case

About the Author

Dr Clara Jones is currently Lecturer in Modern Literature at King's College London. She has published several peer-reviewed articles on Virginia Woolf.


This is the book we have been waiting for on Virginia Woolf and politics. Clara Jones provides fresh, often startling, archival evidence of Woolf’s significant involvement with a range of organisations such as the People’s Suffrage Federation and the Women’s Co-operative Guild. This field-shaping monograph will reconfigure our understanding of Woolf’s activism and its relationship to her writing.

- Professor Anna Snaith, King’s College London
A startlingly fresh, nuanced, and detailed investigation, based on overlooked or frequently dismissed archival evidence, into Woolf’s political engagement across the trajectory of her writing life, some 45 years.
- JEAN MILLS, John Jay College, Review of English Studies, Vol. 67, No. 282

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