Julia Prinsep Stephen was a celebrated Englishwoman, noted for her beauty as a Pre-Raphaelite model and philanthropist. She was the wife of the biographer Leslie Stephen and mother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, members of the Bloomsbury Group.
Julia Jackson was born in Calcutta to an Anglo-Indian family, and when she was two her mother and her two sisters moved back to England. She became the favourite model of her aunt, the celebrated photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, who made more than 50 portraits of her. Through another maternal aunt, she became a frequent visitor at Little Holland House, then home to an important literary and artistic circle, and came to the attention of a number of Pre-Raphaelite painters who portrayed her in their work. Married to Herbert Duckworth, a barrister, in 1867 she was soon widowed with three infant children. Devastated, she turned to nursing, philanthropy and agnosticism, and found herself attracted to the writing and life of Leslie Stephen, with whom she shared a mutual friend in Anny Thackeray, his sister-in-law.
After Leslie Stephen's wife died in 1875 he became close friends with Julia and they married in 1878.