Morley & Virginia Woolf
Morley College is no stranger to excellent teachers in its 125 year history. Born out of the Old Vic theatre there has always been a strong relationship with the arts at Morley which has been cemented over the years with teachers including Gustav Holst, Michael Tippett, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Bertrand Russell and Virginia Woolf (nee Stephen) all teaching at the College.
Virginia Woolf first came to Morley in 1905 until 1907, lecturing in literature, composition and history. Here she found herself teaching a whole new audience comprised of working-class women, imbuing Morley’s founding commitment of gender and class equality to provide education for the working man and woman. Virginia discovered that she needed to adapt her teaching approach for this new audience, to create more of a conversation with students rather than dictating information, an alternative approach which she found desirable.
At Morley Virginia led the English Literature Circle and even took on the role of Morley librarian, writing to her friend Violet Dickinson in 1905, “I am going to be Librarian at Morley. Miss Sheep[shanks] says that she thinks my gift is rather influence than direct intellectual teaching.”
Virginia left Morley in 1907 to focus more on her writing, going on to write many celebrated works such as Mrs Dalloway (1925), A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938). It is even rumoured that Septimus Smith in Mrs Dalloway was modelled on a Morley student.
Looking back through the College archives we found that Virginia was contacted again in 1941 by the Principal Mrs Hubback asking if she would like to lecture at the College again. Unfortunately by this time Virginia Woolf’s health was in decline and she refused the offer, writing the letter some two weeks before her death.
Information about Virginia Woolf and the host of influential teachers that have passed through Morley’s doors, along with the College’s rich history can be found in the book Morley College 125th Anniversary Portrait, published this month in celebration of the College’s anniversary. The book retails for £25 and can be bought in the Morley College library.
Find out more about the College's 125 year history.