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Virginia Woolf Writes Empire and Extinction

Controversial Plumes

Feather fashions were the subject of heated debate between the 1860s and 1920s, with feather-wearing women held largely accountable by anti-plumage trade campaigners for the decimation of exotic bird species. The UK Plumage (Prohibition)  Bill of 1920, which sought to ban the importation of feathers used in women’s fashion, was the subject of Woolf’s “earliest feminist polemic,” her narrative essay “The  Plumage Bill” (1920), which challenged the “injustice to women” implicit in the language of the plumage trade debate.[1] Scholars often consider this essay a “direct prototype” for Woolf’s later feminist polemics A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three   Guineas (1938).[2] This essay, by contrast, emphasizes the unique Darwinian, (anti)imperialist and (post)human feminist politics of Woolf’s essay on feather fashions and bird extinction. Woolf’s essay anticipates some of the most pressing topics in contemporary literary animal studies: interrelated    representations of animals, women, empire, and extinction.

This essay draws on the work of postcolonial, posthumanist, feminist, and extinction theorists (including Maneesha Deckha, Rosi Braidotti, Antoinette Burton, and Thom van Dooren) to make two key claims. First, the discourse around the plumage trade debate was underpinned by two key contexts that have been largely overlooked by Woolf scholarship: the colonial nature of the feather trade legislation and Darwin’s thinking on extinction outlined in On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871). Bird extinction caused by colonial activity (but attributed to female vanity) was a pressing issue in the 1800s and early 1900s. Second, Woolf engaged subversively in her feminist Plumage Bill essay with the interrelated issues of empire and extinction in ways that were both humanist (in the sense that she reinforces the imperialist aspects of feather tropes that were underpinned by humanist “civilizing” logic), and proto-posthumanist in her celebration of bird-woman affinities. Woolf challenged the misogyny of anti-plumage trade discourse, but the terms of her writing shift culpability for the destructive feather trade from British women to South American and Indian male colonial subjects. She therefore enacts a form of what postcolonial scholar Antoinette Burton calls “British imperial feminism,” which, as we will see, emerges from humanist discourse.[3]  My reading holds in play Woolf’s resistance to, and complicity in, such humanist imperialist discourse. Nonetheless, Woolf’s entry in the plumage trade debate opens new ways of thinking about non/human networks in their colonial and Darwinian contexts, “storying,” as van Dooren puts it, questions about extinction and anticipating posthumanism with what Rosi Braidotti calls an “affirmative politics” of multispecies empathy.[4] In short, understanding  the postcolonial, feminist, (post)human context of “The Plumage Bill” deepens our understanding of the near extinction of exotic  bird species.

Postcolonial Posthumanist Feminism

Postcolonial and posthumanist frameworks offer ways of understanding the plumage bill and related bird extinction in context. Posthumanist philosopher Rosi Braidotti says that humanism “historically developed into a civilizational model, which shaped a certain idea of Europe as coinciding with the universalizing powers of self-reflexive reason,” a position that “fuelled” British imperialism. The “Eurocentric paradigm” of humanism, she writes, “implies the dialectics of self and other,” such that “subjectivity is equated with consciousness, universal rationality, and self-regulating ethical behaviour, whereas Otherness is defined as its negative and specular counterpart.” This paradigm has “both essentialist and lethal connotations for people who get branded as ‘others’” (often by being gendered, racialized, or animalized), “who are reduced to the less than human status of disposable bodies.” Posthumanism resists this humanist imperialist paradigm and “introduces a qualitative shift in our thinking about what exactly is the basic unit of common reference for our species, our polity and our relationship to the other inhabitants of this planet” (Braidotti, The Posthuman, 13, 15, 1–2). Postcolonial posthumanist scholar Maneesha Deckha states that “feminist work on animals has to become more intersectional” and “centralize the dynamics of race and culture.”[5] She too explains how under colonialism the “cultivation of ideas of race, culture, gender, and species was thus interactive and mutually constitutive.”[6] Deckha’s argument pushes Braidotti’s work further and calls for work on the intersection of these interrelated issues. Bringing these frameworks to bear on modernist studies, this essay responds to Deckha’s call by considering the discursive relationship between feminism, empire, and extinction on the (post)humanist plumage trade debate, revealing the complex relationships between conservationism, misogyny and imperialism at its heart.

A Colonial History of the Plumage Trade

Feather fashions, made possible by the colonial trade in exotic plumes, have been prominent in Europe for centuries. According to Robin Doughty’s Feather Fashions and Bird Preservation, “Heron feathers were symbols of authority among eastern potentates. Returning Crusaders reportedly carried them back to Europe as spoils of war,” and plumes were later popular with the western European military in the nineteenth century.[7] Feathers therefore have a history connected to western violence and appropriation that began with the medieval Crusades against the Islamic Middle East and became a feature of European colonialism and military expansion. By the mid-nineteenth century, the plumage trade was a significant source of income for European traders journeying to Asia, South America, and other parts of the world. In just one year in the 1880s, “over 400,000 West Indian and Brazilian birds and some 350,000 East Indian birds sold on the London market.”[8] The plumage trade was a global colonial practice that decimated bird populations.

In the 1800s, the ethics of feather fashions and the plight of birds were pressing issues for imperial Britain, colonized India, and the rest of the world, marking a shift towards animal rights, as well as a humanist impulse to civilize the trade and limit practices that led to extinction. The UK had introduced its first bird protection act, the Sea Birds’ Preservation Act, in 1869. This was followed by the formation of various conservationist groups and attempts at further legislative prohibition. The Society for the Protection of Birds (SPB) was founded in Britain in 1889, initially as an anti-plumage group largely organized by women, with a branch established in India in 1900. Two years later, India became the first country to ban the export of feathers following protests against “killing insectivorous birds for plumage purposes” and the resulting “ravages of insects in the paddy fields” (Doughty, Feather Fashions, 61).[9] Other colonized countries such as Australia, Egypt, and New Guinea followed suit. In the 1920s, however, the plumage trade debate was still raging in Britain. In 1920, bird conservationist H. W. Massingham, the founder of The Plumage Bill Group, wrote in The Nation that “twenty-five millions of wild birds [sic] were imported into England every year,” many of them smuggled from India.[10] Their feathers adorned women’s hats and accessories everywhere. Animal protection laws in the UK and British colonies were not, however, simply shaped by concerns for animal welfare. Deckha explains that “imperialism and the need to maintain a ‘civilized’ identity vis-à-vis colonized peoples” led to the criminalization of some forms of animal cruelty, which reinforced civilizational hierarchies and British claims “to a more civilized and progressive ‘home’ culture and nation.”[11] As such, discourse about animal welfare legislation was, she observes, “imbricated in civilizing missions as opposed to primarily addressing animal suffering” (524). The first British Plumage (Prohibition) Bill was proposed in 1908, and further bills were proposed frequently thereafter (Doughty, Feather Fashions, 118). Colonel Yate’s 1920 Plumage (Prohibition) Bill failed to make a quorum five times and collapsed (Alt, Virginia Woolf and the Study of Nature, 133). This is the bill Woolf discusses in her essay on feather fashions, empire, and extinction.

Extinction & Empire

The plumage trade debate emerged in the context of wider concerns during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, evident in Darwin and Massingham’s writing, about what is now called the sixth extinction. Contemporary scientists have identified human activity, particularly the “ecological changes unleashed by colonialism,” leading to habitat destruction, overhunting, and competition with non-native species introduced by humans, as a major factor in the sixth extinction.[12] Approximately 280 animal species were known to have gone extinct from 1500 to 1900, many in Darwin’s lifetime.[13] This species loss continued well into Woolf’s lifetime and is only increasing today. Much of the sixth extinction then, can be attributed to the “Eurocentric paradigm” of colonial humanist ideology and practices in which animals “are reduced to the less than human status of disposable bodies” (Braidotti, The Posthuman, 15).

The concept of extinction, dismissed as “incompatible with natural theolog[y]” until the nineteenth century, was central to Darwin’s theory of evolution.[14] Darwin showed how extinction took place over millennia, stating that “how largely extinction has acted in the world’s history, geology plainly declares.” He argued that “Natural Selection almost inevitably causes much Extinction of the less improved forms of life,” indeed “the very process of natural selection almost implies the continual supplanting  and extinction of preceding and intermediate gradations.”[15] Therefore “extinction and natural selection . . . go hand in hand” in the gradual process of evolution, including “the extinction of [human] races” (Darwin, Origin, 130).[16] Extinction, explicable through evolutionary theory, was recognized in the 1800s as a very real threat to humans and animals alike. Darwin only briefly mentions human-caused extinction, observing that animals become rare before they go extinct: “We know that this has been the progress of events with those animals which have been exterminated, either locally or wholly, through man’s agency” (Darwin, Origin, 235). The phrase “we know” assumes audience familiarity with human-caused extinction (Steller’s sea cow went extinct within twenty-seven years of its discovery by Europeans in 1741), but he did not push the subject further.[17]

Darwin did not take an explicit stance on bird conservation, but he knew that the plumage trade cost the lives of “twenty birds . . . in a single day” at any given hunting     spot. He writes of “birdcatchers” from New Guinea and Guiana who “catch an astonishing number of various small species alive for the London market,” and describes the breeding season, when hunters “kill with their poisoned arrows four or five males, one after the other,” and “a skilful archer may shoot” over a dozen birds of paradise at once. Darwin recognized that female bird “skins are valueless,” while British women “borrow the plumes of male birds” (Darwin, Descent, 533, 446, 456, 665). He was evidently complicit in identifying both indigenous bird hunters and white western women as creating the supply and demand for the plumage trade while eliding those who profited by this trade. The implication here is that for Darwin, as for Massingham, bird extinction was driven by frivolous feathered women and profiteering colonial subjects.

Woolf and The Plumage (Prohibition) Bill

Discourses of empire and Darwinian theories of extinction are key contexts for the plumage trade debate and Woolf’s essay about it. The conservationist side of the plumage trade debate, while informed by justifiable concerns regarding species loss, was also shaped by a misogynist attribution of extinction to female vanity and an imperialist tendency to see colonial subjects as the only men profiting from this trade. Woolf’s essay, however, engages with imperialist and misogynist aspects of the debate. Woolf would have known that, despite the popularity of military and ceremonial plumes amongst men (these were mostly from ostriches that could be farmed rather than hunted), and despite men’s profiting from the mass sale of hunted tropical birds’ feathers, women were mainly held responsible for the demand for feathers (Doughty, Feather Fashions, 12–13). The Audubon Society, an American conservationist group, even offered public lectures on “Woman as a Bird Enemy.” The Society for the Protection of Birds, with which Woolf was familiar (she owned one of their pamphlets and several birdwatching guides), condemned the unmaternal women who “disfigured” themselves with the “nuptial plumage” of parent birds whose chicks starved (Richards, Making of Sexual Selection, 246). Elsewhere, Massingham and others frequently blamed women for the trade in The Times (which Woolf read regularly), The Nation (an intellectual weekly that Massingham edited), the Spectator, and the Observer.[18]

Woolf joined the plumage trade debate in response to one of Massingham’s many articles on the topic. In an article echoing Darwin’s understanding of extinction and British women’s and colonized men’s supposed culpability, Massingham writes in his weekly column in The Nation:

Now that the Plumage Bill has been smothered the massacre of the innocents will continue. Nature puts an end to birds and the trade together. Her veto will be final, and as science declares that six years without birds means the end of her animate system, the end of the Plumage Trade may possibly coincide with the end of us.[19]

He then lists hummingbirds and birds of paradise as “in imminent danger of extinction,” the egret “exterminated out of country after country,” albatrosses, kingfishers, cranes, flamingos, ibises, spoonbills, condors, quetzals, toucans, and “dozens of other species . . . reduced to a fraction of their abundance.” Many of these birds were indigenous to (then) colonial India, the Americas, Australia, and Africa. He goes on to identify the    cause of this species loss:

They have to be shot in parenthood for child-bearing women to flaunt the symbols of it, and . . . one bird shot for its plumage means ten other deadly wounds and the starvation of the young. But what do women care? Look at Regent Street this morning! (Massingham, 463–4)

Massingham evidently saw plumed “child-bearing women” as culpable for the near- extinction of exotic birds. Women, he suggested, were acting against our “real and profoundly important common duty of preserving heritage and the continuity of evolution and raising the moral currency of civilised nations” (Woolf, Essays, 244, emphasis added).

Woolf, who wrote and advertised in The Nation, responded to Massingham’s article with her narrative essay “The Plumage Bill” (July 23, 1920), first published in the British weekly suffrage journal Woman’s Leader. Woolf acknowledges species loss, writing, “The Plumage Bill has been smothered; millions of birds are doomed not only to extinction but to torture.” She then reproduces the second passage above (“They have to be shot in parenthood,” etc.). Woolf’s narrator looks out onto Regent Street and sketches out the character of the consummate consumer, “Lady So-and-so;” this “lady of a different class altogether” shops for plumes, “the very symbols of pride and distinction.” She has the “stupid,” “greedy” face “of a pug-dog at tea-time” and is seen at the opera “looking lovely with a lemon-coloured egret in her hair.” Woolf appears to join Massingham in his condemnation of feather-wearing women, but she then presents an even more damning portrayal of men involved in the plumage trade. Birds, she says, “are killed by men, tortured by men and starved by men . . . with their own hands.” She concludes by asking, “Can it be that it is a graver sin to be unjust to women than to torture birds?” Woolf, then, turns away from questions of extinction (which I will return to) towards the misogyny of the plumage bill debate and Massingham’s “insult to women” (Woolf, Essays, 241, 242, 243, 245).

Woolf’s Imperial Feminism

Woolf asks us to imagine plume hunters in South America, a “bird tightly held in one hand while another hand pierces the eyeballs with a feather” for Lady So-and-so. “But these hands,” she continues, “are they the hands of men or of women?” Are they the hands, I ask, of Europeans or South Americans? Woolf does not specify. She says that male “East End profiteers” (arguably implicitly Jewish at that time) support the trade, but it is South Americans, presumably, whom she calls “the very scum of mankind” (Woolf, Essays, 242). Woolf appears to situate the worst of the trade and the cruelest traders outside her own race and nation. Like Darwin and Massingham, she seems to blame    exotic bird hunters and British women’s feather fashions for the trade while eliding the role of British male profiteers. But her condemnation of specifically male involvement in the trade adds what Woolf scholar Melba Cuddy-Keane calls a “trope of the twist.”[20] Woolf’s twist is conservationist; it also critiques Massingham’s misogyny by appealing to multiple audiences—including plumage buyers, conservationists, and the feminist readership of Woman’s Leader—on polyvocal, ironic, and multi-discursive levels. Cuddy-Keane points to both the risks of twisting tropes (if misread they will reinforce the dominant narrative that they seek to undercut), and to their subversive potential, which enables Woolf to “chastis[e] her adversaries while turning them into allies” (148, 150). Massingham is invited to shift the blame from British women to South American men and East End profiteers, both implicitly racialized others, the contemporary versions of Darwin’s “dealers,” “birdcatchers,” and “Indians of Guiana” (Darwin, Descent, 286, 456).

In transferring culpability to these racialized others, Woolf becomes complicit in    “British imperial feminism,” revealing “a redemptive impulse based on a sense of moral superiority and national responsibility” towards colonized peoples (Burton, Burdens of History, 29, 61). British imperial feminism, then, exhibits a tension between humanist civilizing impulses and feminist attempts to challenge humanist assumptions of reason as the domain of men.[21] An earlier version of Woman’s Leader Common Cause, for example, featured a striking instance of British imperial feminism  in its glowing report on the Coronation Empire Pageant of June 1911. The suffrage pageant of women from Britain and the British colonies projected an image of “international sisterhood” that depended on consenting subjects, promoting the suffrage of women within the empire but not from it (196). Woolf’s essay was published in a journal with a history of British imperial feminism, using colonized others to elevate the status of white British women. It is therefore no surprise that Woolf uses South American plume hunters to align (white) female empowerment and justice with civilization. Woolf unites her multiple British audiences as allies by appealing to this sense of national responsibility: South Americans become members of the implicit “[un]civilised nations” invoked to condemn the bill and “injustice to women” (Woolf, Essays, 243). Woolf’s writing here, as Nels Pearson puts it, “both challenges and reflects imperialist ideology.”[22] Woolf raises Massingham’s “moral currency of civilized nations,” by shifting culpability for the plumage trade from English women to South American men,   lowering the currency of supposedly uncivilized nations as she raises the worth of Englishness and English women (Woolf, Essays, 245). Woolf’s ambiguous satire risks reinforcing the dominant narrative that it seeks to undercut (Cuddy-Keane, “The Rhetoric of Feminist Conversation,” 151). She simultaneously aligns Englishwomen with birds as, Jane Garrity explains, “victims of male violence, a move that effectively erases cultural and geographical differences as it proclaims the innocence of white women.”[23] Whether or not Woolf is being ironic here, she writes her way into humanist civilizing discourse and British imperial feminism in her defense of women.

Woolf’s imperial feminism responded to the wider imperial context underpinning   the plumage debate. Massingham continually condemned the trade as an irresponsible iteration of colonialism while proposing “civilizing” legislation in line with Deckha’s observations. “Our colonies,” he wrote, “repeatedly called on us to stop acting as a receiver of stolen and smuggled goods,” blaming the trade for “murdered game-wardens” and “poorly paid child-labour” in India.[24] Other newspapers followed a similar line; an unsigned article (which sounds suspiciously like Massingham) published in The Times (March 26, 1920), says:

[Feathers] deck women’s hats with what is essentially a barbaric adornment. British people are accustomed to pride themselves on leading the way . . . in legislating for dumb creatures’ welfare, but in this toleration of a wasteful, cruel, and barbaric industry we have too long lagged behind both the United States and our own Dominions.[25]

This passage suggests intersecting appeals to national pride and the racist, misogynist alignment of the female and the “barbaric” in the rhetoric of the plumage trade debate—rhetoric that speaks to Deckha’s observation that legislation was more concerned with civilizing discourse than animal welfare. If “our own Dominions” are less “barbaric” than the British, then they threaten to destabilize the hierarchy of Britain’s “moral currency,” and it is for this reason, implicitly, that women must stop investing in the plumage trade (Woolf, Essays, 245). Woolf, in challenging Massingham’s misogyny on British imperial feminist terms, reinforced these humanist “civilizational hierarchies” (Deckha, “Welfarist and Imperial,” 525).

Woolf & Extinction

Woolf argued that to “torture birds is one thing, and to be unjust to women is another,” but while she says she “was attacking the second of these crimes and not the first,” she was also engaged with animal cruelty and species loss in “The Plumage Bill.” Woolf states that she “signed a pledge never to wear one of the condemned feathers” as a child, has “kept the vow,” and offers “whatever sum I receive for my article, not upon an egret plume, but upon a subscription to the Plumage Bill Group.” She acknowledges that “millions of birds are doomed” to “extinction” and states that she is “wholly against the plumage trade,” which she calls “abominable and the cruelty repulsive,” opposing cruelty rather than promoting legislation for civilizing purposes (Woolf, Essays, 244–45, 242, 241, 244, 245). She describes

innumerable mouths opening and shutting until, as no parent bird comes to feed them, the young birds rot where they sit. Then there are the wounded birds, trailing leg or wing, as they flutter off to droop and falter in the dust. (242)

Woolf’s use of the words “mouths,” “young birds,” and “sit” instead of “beaks,” “chicks,” and “perch” anthropomorphizes the suffering of birds, appealing to the reader’s sympathy   whilst also revealing the instability of human-animal boundaries. These descriptions of suffering birds do not appear in Massingham’s article, which suggests that Woolf was reading more widely on the Plumage Bill and bird extinction. Indeed, her essay calls to “end the murder and torture of birds, and to make it impossible for a single egret to be robbed of a single plume” (Woolf, Essays, 242–43). Woolf was evidently concerned with bird extinction, with the “disposable [bird] bodies” of humanist colonialism. For Woolf, these two issues were interrelated. In defending women and birds together in this narrative essay, she moves towards an “affirmative” posthumanism (Braidotti, The Posthuman, 15, 54).

We have seen that Woolf places the responsibility for the trade with racialized men, creating a clear distinction between these men and white women and putting women on the civilized side of the civil/savage binary. Yet her troubling of the woman-bird boundary is more nuanced. She says that she is “writing not as a bird, or even a champion of birds; but as a woman” (Essays, 245). Woolf’s semi-colon however, as Derek Ryan points out, both separates and unites bird and women here, and “appears to leave the possibility of boundary crossing,” of being “open.”[26] This openness undermines her negation and anticipates Giorgio Agamben’s “caesura between the human and the animal”—here bird; woman.[27] Furthermore, Woolf adds that “it would never do to write another article solely from the bird’s point of view,” undercutting her claim that she had not been writing as a bird (Essays, 245, emphasis added). Woolf both shows up Massingham’s (which in turn echoes Darwin’s) negative alignment, and animalization, of birds and women and “combines critique with creativity,” “locat[ing] the subject in the flow of relations with multiple” multispecies “others,” moving towards an “affirmative” posthumanism (Braidotti, The Posthuman, 50, 54).

In doing so, Woolf’s narrative essay enacts what extinction theorist Thom van Dooren calls “storying.” In van Dooren’s Flight Ways, “story” is a verb, and “a vital contributor to the emergence of ‘what is.’” For him, “Stories are a part of the world, and so they participate in its becoming” (10).  Like Woolf, van Dooren’s “approach to thinking through extinction” centers on “avian entanglements” of multispecies “co-evolution and ecological dependency.” He “unsettles human[ist] exceptionalist frameworks” and asks “what extinction teaches us, how it remakes us, and what it requires of us.” These questions include, “What kinds of human-bird relationships are possible at the edge of extinction? What does it mean to care for a disappearing species? What obligations do we have to hold open space in the world for other living beings?” (4–5). Woolf’s narrative essay on feathered women entangled with near-extinct birds anticipates and stories such questions, inviting us to rethink human-bird relationships, culpability for species loss, and the cost of victimizing women to protect birds. As Caroline Hovanec points out, “In the age of the sixth mass extinction, it would be naïve to overstate the efficacy of animal stories, literary or scientific, for creating a more ethical way of living with other kinds of beings,” but it would also “be naïve to think that any ethical or political action can happen without the sense of meaning and value that narrative brings.” Indeed, “the animal subjects of modernist literature” might, “in some small way, help story a more attentive, more loving relationship with the world that houses all our animal worlds” (Animal Subjects, 203–4). My sense is that Woolf’s bird extinction and feathered woman narrative helps us to story a more attentive relationship with bird-woman worlds and species loss and invites us to rethink this relationship through a postcolonial lens.


[1] Andrew McNeillie, “Introduction,” in The Essays of Virginia Woolf, vol. 3, ed. Andrew McNeillie (London: Hogarth Press, 1988), xviii; Virginia Woolf, “The Plumage Bill,” in The Essays of Virginia Woolf, vol. 3, 243.

[2] Reginald Abbott, “Birds Don’t Sing in Greek: Virginia Woolf and ‘The Plumage Bill,’” in Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations, eds. Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 265. For feminist work on Woolf’s “The Plumage Bill” (which does not engage with empire or extinction), see Christina Alt, Virginia Woolf and the Study of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Naomi Black, Virginia Woolf as Feminist (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); Saskia McCracken, “Virginia Woolf, ‘The Plumage Bill,’ and the Lost Art of Fly Dressing,” Virginia Woolf Miscellany 91 (2017): 27–29; and Saskia McCracken, “‘Brandishing Her Plumes’: Virginia Woolf’s Posthumanist Feather Tropes,” in Crossing Borders: Transnational Modernism Beyond the Human, eds. Alberto Godioli and Carmen van den Bergh (Leiden: Brill Press, forthcoming).

[3] Antoinette Burton, Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865–1915 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 29.

[4] Thom van Dooren, Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 10; Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013), 54.

[5] Maneesha Deckha, “Toward a Postcolonial, Posthumanist Feminist Theory: Centralizing Race and Culture in Feminist Work on Nonhuman Animals,” Hypatia 27, no. 3 (2012): 530.

[6] Deckha, “Intersectionality and Posthumanist Visions of Equality,” Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender and Society 23, no. 2 (2008): 252.

[7] Robin W. Doughty, Feather Fashions and Bird Preservation: A Study in Nature Protection (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 12–13.

[8] Evelleen Richards, Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 246.

[9] H. W. Massingham, “Letter to the Editor,” The Times (London), March 22, 1920, 18.

[10] H. W. Massingham, The Nation: vol. XXVII (London: National Press Agency, April 24, 1920), 103.

[11] Maneesha Deckha, “Welfarist and Imperial: The Contributions of Anticruelty Laws to Civilizational Discourse,” American Quarterly 65, no. 3 (2013): 521.

[12] Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, “Extinctions: Chronicles of Vanishing Fauna in the Colonial and Postcolonial    Caribbean,” in The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, ed. Greg Garrard (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 341.

[13] Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene (London: Penguin, 2018), 178.

[14] Caroline Hovanec, Animal Subjects: Literature, Zoology, and British Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 44.

[15] Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, ed. Gillian Beer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 98, 7–8, 152.

[16] Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (London: Penguin, 2004), 194.

[17] For more on Woolf and Darwin, see Gillian Beer, Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996).

[18] Julia King and Laila Miletic-Vejzovic, The Library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf: A Short-Title Catalogue (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2003).

[19] H. W. Massingham, The Nation, July 10, 1920, 463.

[20] Melba Cuddy-Keane, “The Rhetoric of Feminist Conversation: Virginia Woolf and the Trope of the Twist,” in Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology and British Women Writers, ed. Kathy Mezei (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 137.

[21] See also Urmila Seshagiri, Race and the Modernist Imagination (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010).

[22] Nels Pearson, “Woolf’s Spatial Aesthetic and Postcolonial Critique,” in A Companion to Virginia Woolf,   ed. Jessica Berman (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), 428.

[23] Jane Garrity, Step-daughters of England: British Women Modernists and the National Imaginary (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), 75.

[24] Massingham, The Nation, April 24, 1920, 103; July 10, 1920, 455.

[25] Anonymous, “Wild Birds and Women’s Hats,” The Times, March 26, 1920, 15.

[26] Derek Ryan, Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory: Sex, Animal, Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 160.

[27] Giorgio Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 16.