Virginia Moore (1903–1993)


Virginia Moore was a poet, biographer, and scholar. She is perhaps best known for her work Virginia Is a State of Mind (1942), which has been described as the “biography of a state.” In it, she combines personal observations on Virginia’s topography and climate with short biographical sketches of Virginians such as Powhatan, Mary Ball, and Thomas Jefferson; anecdotes on the American Civil War (1861–1865); and reflections on the state’s history, food, and literature. The result is a characterization of Virginia and its citizens as intensely “individualist.”

Moore was born on July 11, 1903, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Virginians John Fitzallen Moore and Ethel Daniel Moore. She earned a BA from Hollins College (now Hollins University) in 1923, an MA from Columbia University in 1924, and a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University in 1952. She was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa at Hollins in 1962, an honor reserved for distinguished scholars.

Moore published three volumes of poetry: Not Poppy (1926), Sweet Water and Bitter (1928), and Homer’s Golden Chain (1936). Her poetry was praised for its wide range of subject and form.

Moore also published four critical biographies. The first, Distinguished Women Writers (1934), presents seventeen portraits of literary women, including Sappho, Christina Rossetti, and George Eliot. The Life and Eager Death of Emily Brontë (1936) contains several of Brontë’s previously unpublished poems, which Moore discovered during her research for the book. The Unicorn: William Butler Yeats’s Search for Reality (1954) focuses on Yeats’s spiritual, philosophical, and artistic “metamorphosis” over his career. Finally, The Madisons (1979) chronicles the private and public lives of James and Dolley Madison during his presidency and their forty-two-year marriage.

In addition to poetry and biography Moore wrote Rising Wind (1928), a Civil War novel set in Virginia, and Scottsville on the James (1969), a local history of the life of the James River town where Moore lived for sixty-two years. Her home there, Cliffside, is listed on the Virginia and National Registers of Historic Places.

Moore’s work often skillfully blended multiple genres. She combined anecdote, historical fact, and philosophical observation in works such as Ho for Heaven! Man’s Changing Attitude Toward Dying (1946), a study of funeral practices and changing ideas about death from ancient Greece to the Victorian Age, and The Whole World, Stranger (1957), an exploration of the idea of a universal human spirit.

Moore’s final published work, The Liberty Bell Papers: An Inquiry into American Values (1980), is a collection of essays about freedom, democracy, economics, and an increasing national preoccupation with materialism, which Moore felt subverted genuine freedom.

In addition to her scholarly activities, Moore served as president of the boards of Charlottesville’s Jefferson-Madison Regional Library and the Scottsville Museum Foundation. She was also a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia and the Albemarle Historical Society.

Moore married author Louis Untermeyer in 1926 but was divorced two years later. They had one son, John Fitzallen, whose last name she changed to Moore following her divorce. In 1945 she married Washington, D.C., attorney and retired U.S. Navy captain John Jefferson Hudgins. Moore died of cancer on June 11, 1993, one month shy of her ninetieth birthday.

Major Works

  • Not Poppy (1926)
  • Rising Wind (1928)
  • Sweet Water and Bitter (1928)
  • Distinguished Women Writers (1934)
  • Homer’s Golden Chain (1936)
  • Virginia Is a State of Mind (1942)
  • Ho for Heaven! Man’s Changing Attitude Toward Dying (1946)
  • The Unicorn: William Butler Yeats’ Search for Reality (1954)
  • The Whole World, Stranger (1957)
  • Scottsville on the James: An Informal History (1969)
  • The Life and Eager Death of Emily Brontë: A Biography (1971)
  • The Madisons: A Biography (1979)
  • The Liberty Bell Papers: An Inquiry into American Values (1980)
July 11, 1903
Virginia Moore is born in Omaha, Nebraska.
Virginia Moore earns a BA from Hollins College.
Virginia Moore earns an MA from Columbia University.
Virginia Moore authors what is now her best known work, Virginia is a State of Mind.
Virginia Moore earns a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University.
Virginia Moore is initiated into Phi Beta Kappa at Hollins College, an honor reserved for distinguished scholars.
June 11, 1993
Virginia Moore, poet, scholar, and biographer, dies.
  • Anderson, Della. 101 Virginia Women Writers: A Select Bibliography. Richmond: Virginia Women’s Cultural History Project, 1984.
  • Flora, Joseph M. and Amber Vogel, eds. Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Press, 2006.
  • Taylor, Welford Dunaway, ed. Virginia Authors Past and Present. Richmond: Virginia Association of Teachers of English, 1972.
APA Citation:
Parkhurst, Erin. Virginia Moore (1903–1993). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/moore-virginia-1903-1993.
MLA Citation:
Parkhurst, Erin. "Virginia Moore (1903–1993)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 20 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
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