Sunday, February 18, 2007
More Wilberforces in history
(Clockwise from top: Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Robins, Olivia Wilberforce)
Every time I turn around these days, I find another story about a William Wilberforce descendant. This time it's the story of Octavia Wilberforce, granddaughter of his son Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, the nemesis of Thomas Huxley.
The seventh child of seven children, Octavia refused a proper marriage, and chose instead to self-finance a medical education. Along the way she became the lesbian lover of the American playwright and novelist Elizabeth Robins. Olivia purchased a practice in Brighton, where she lived near the famous writer Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard.
Olivia became the Woolf family doctor, and on March 26, 1941, Leonard asked Dr. Wilberforce to visit Virginia, concerned about her mental health. Wilberforce advised that no action be taken. The next day, Virginia committed suicide by walking into a nearby river and drowning.