To quote Wikipedia, Virginia Woolf was “one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century”, which is all well and good, but it doesn’t change the fact she was kind of a dick to her servants.
As you probably learned in English class, Virginia Woolf was a writer most famous for the piece A Room of One’s Own, in which she famously posited “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. In other words, Woolf was well aware that for a woman to pursue writing (or indeed any pastime, hobby or dream beyond having a bunch of kids) she needed both wealth and freedom, so you’d think that knowing this Woolf would be somewhat sympathetic to the plight of the thousands of women working as servants throughout Britain.
In Woolf’s time, nearly half of all British women were employed as domestic servants of some kind as there was, quite literally, no other way for them to make a living. Woolf in contrast enjoyed a life of remarkable privilege, enjoying not only an education, but financial security that allowed her to pursue her interests. One of which was bitching about how easy poor people had it.
You see, Woolf was part of an elite circle of writers, thinkers and shitheads called the Bloomsbury Group, one of the favourite pastimes of which was laughing the unwashed masses they had to tolerate on a daily basis. For example at a party in the 1920’s, the group invited two guards who’d been stood on duty all night nearby join them simply to mock how uncultured they were as they did what anyone would do at a party and began eating all the food. It’s probably also worth noting that some members of the group were horrifically antisemitic, despite one of their members being Jewish.
The group also hated anything popular and criticised things like sport and cinema as being the pastimes of “barbarians” who could never hope to enjoy the more refined leisurely pursuits they enjoyed – like fucking each others’ wives – on the same level as them. Essentially they were all hipster shit-nuggets who acted like their own farts didn’t smell while saying that everything popular sucked.
Woolf in particular was especially mean towards servants, frequently mocking them in her diaries and commenting on the fact they could never have and probably didn’t deserve to have a life as enriching as her own. Woolf hated her servants so much that she eventually resorted to only communicating through notes left around the house that when not followed to the letter, would cause her to complain in her diary about how stupid they were. You know, even though they were the only fucking reason she was even able to have the time to write in her diary at all. At parties Woolf would similarly refuse to acknowledge or thank servants while they went about their duties. If Woolf were alive today, she’d almost certainly be the kind of person to leave passive aggressive notes criticising service instead of a tip at restaurants.
Woolf’s elitism even extended to her own extended family with her once describing her husband Leonard’s family as, “nine Jews, all of whom, with the single exception of Leonard, might well have been drowned, without the world wagging one ounce the worst”. Because oh yeah, Woolf was married to that Jewish member of the Bloomsbury group, which didn’t stop her frequently describing Jewish people as “repulsive” or “dirty”.
So how does the world remember this objectively awful human being who mocked poor people, believed the uneducated couldn’t live fulfilling lives and refused to even acknowledge underpaid servants who took care of her every whim? She’s remembered as one of best modernist writers of recent history. Figures.