the story of judith shakespeares sister is meant to make what kind of argument
Woolf wrote in her diary before A Room of One’s Own was published that she thought when it was published she would be “attacked for a feminist & hinted at for a sapphist” [sapphist means lesbian].  
A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf, first published in September 1929.  The work is based on two lectures Woolf delivered in October 1928 at Newnham College and Girton College, women’s constituent colleges at the University of Cambridge.  
V irginia Woolf was unconventional in her advocacy for feminist causes. Woolf believed in equality, but like other Modernist writers of the early twentieth century, Woolf saw herself as an outsider and observer. This identity made her participation in women’s political groups fraught — as the scholar Clara Jones demonstrates in Virginia Woolf: Ambivalent Activist , Woolf supported and helped organize organizations’ feminist projects but would return home from a meeting and lampoon other advocates in her journal. It is this sympathetic-yet-skeptical relationship to feminist activism that makes Woolf’s pro-equality argument about the dearth of great women writers so interesting.
But in using fiction, Woolf’s approach plays upon her readers’ emotions as well as their logical and ethical reasoning abilities. Perhaps because Woolf was in the prime of her career as a novelist — Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse had been published a few years before this essay appeared—the writer knew the empathy fiction can engender in its audience. Reading the sad case of Judith Shakespeare, whether or not she existed, is an affecting experience. It is hard not to feel the injustice of patriarchy on the female individual when Woolf recounts the abrupt end of Judith’s life and her lowly resting place near a bus stop.
So think of Judith less as a character and more as a kind of argument dressed in fiction. She’s as much a tragic genius when she leaves for London as when she kills herself.
And the other reason you’ve never heard of her is because Virginia Woolf made her up.
The narrator is disappointed at not having found an incontrovertible statement on why women are poorer than men. She decides to investigate women in Elizabethan England, puzzled why there were no women writers in that fertile literary period. She believes there is a deep connection between living conditions and creative works. She reads a history book and finds that women had few rights in the era, despite having strong personalities, especially in works of art. The narrator finds no material about middle-class women in the history book, and a host of her questions remain unanswered.
Lacking historical evidence, Woolf again uses her fictional powers in describing the plight of Shakespeare’s sister. She first details all the factors that aided Shakespeare’s natural genius: his early education; his freedom to leave his wife for London; his ready employment in the theatrical world; his ability to earn money for himself; his opportunities to explore other walks of life; his lack of familial responsibility. Judith, conversely, is victimized by a number of socioeconomic factors: lack of education; discouragement from reading and writing; absence of privacy; lack of employment opportunities in the artistic world; the burden of children.
© The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Virginia Woolf. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
Published in 1929, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is a key work of feminist literary criticism. Written after she delivered two lectures on the topic of ‘women and fiction’ at Cambridge University in 1928, Woolf’s essay examines the educational, social and financial disadvantages women have faced throughout history. It contains Woolf’s famous argument that, ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’ – although Woolf describes this as ‘an opinion upon one minor point’, and the essay explores the ‘unsolved problems’ of women and fiction ‘to show you how I arrived at this opinion about the room and the money’.