By Nital Jain
It is very sad that till today women in the field of art and literature are not recognised. Stories like these are still necessary and relevant. In 2016, Gay Talese was asked to name women writers who inspired him to which he replied, ‘‘none’’. This is rather shocking than surprising. Why aren’t women celebrated in the literature field?
Booked4books has always celebrated female authors and here are a few female authors that have shaped our lives, they are mentioned in no particular order.
1. Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English novelist and one of the most famous writers of all time! She lived in the period when women did not work but did wife duties and mother duties so, she published her novels anonymously. Austen remained single all her life and almost all her novels were about the idea of marriage. The truth her lies that women in those times were dependent on their husband for financial a and social status. Jane wrote a total of 7 novels namely, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
Two of her novels were published after she died, her family made sure that they published her work even after she died. Jane was educated mainly by her father and aunt Ann Cooper. Another very interesting trivia about Jane Austen is that she brewed her own beer. Along with her family, she knew how to brew her beer from scratch. Although Jane was never married she had her fair share of romance. If you want to learn more about Jane Austen’s romance then there is a movie, Becoming Jane starring Anne Hathaway. Apart from all the romances, there was a man Wither, who also proposed to Jane when she was 27, Jane accepted the proposal but then backed out the next morning because she wasn’t in love with Wither. One interesting fact that is very surprising to a lot of people is that Austen dedicated one of her books to the person she hated. Jane died very young at the age of just 41 years old due to an illness now known as Addison’s disease.
2. Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte was born in England on April 12, 1816. Her life was a rollercoaster ride and a lot more than Jane Eyre. She gained a lifetime of success and is still popular nearly 200 years later. Bronte was just 5 years old when her mother passed away because of ovarian cancer leaving back six young children behind. After her mother passed away she was sent to boarding school along with her sisters. Bronte used her bad experience at boarding school in her novel Jane Eyre for Lowood Institution. She was a voracious reader during her childhood and wrote a few stories and stage plays along with her siblings. For fun, she and her siblings also made their own magazines like real magazines which would have essays, letters, poems, ads, notes, etc. She was always a very creative person, later in her life, she also worked as a teacher but disliked the long hours of work.
Bronte’s work was rejected a lot of times and she didn’t deal with the rejections gracefully; she was repeatedly told that literature cannot be the business of a woman. In 1846, along with her sisters, she paid to publish a book of poetry containing poems written by them. The three sisters used male pseudonyms. The book sold only two copies. Bronte used Currer Bell when she published Jane Eyre, her publishers didn’t know she was a girl until after one year of publishing.
3. Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf is considered one of the most important modernist and feminist 20th-century writers. She gained popularity during the third wave of feminism in the 1970s. Since then her name and work have been synonymous with the movement. Her most acknowledged work is her novel Mrs Dalloway, which has been translated into over fifty languages. Woolf also had a romantic relationship with her fellow writer Vita Sackville-West, and the relations were never secret or illicit, in fact, both of them talked openly about it. Vita’s son Nigel said of the novel Orlando the effect of Vita on Woolf, the longest and most charming love letter in literature.
Another very interesting fact about Woolf is that she battled with mental illness her whole life and still managed to write such amazing and phenomenal pieces of literature.
4. Angela Carter
Angela Carter was a writer, English novelist and also journalist. She is known for her wondrous work The Bloody Chamber and Nights at the Circus. She was also named 10th in the 50 greatest British writers of all time by The Times and has received several awards throughout her career. Angela was born during World War II and in her teenage years, she also battled anorexia. After college, Angela started writing professionally after becoming a journalist. Carter died young from lung cancer. At the time of her death, she was working on a sequel, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, based on the life of Jane’s stepdaughter. The work remained unfinished and only the synopsis survived.
Apart from her novels, Carter has also worked on articles that have been published in popular and known sources like The New Statesman and the Independent, The Guardian, etc. All these were compiled and collected in Shaking a Leg which is also acknowledged as a very good read.
5. Toni Morris
Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison known as Toni Morris was an American novelist, book editor, college professor and essayist. Her work spoke to many as it highlighted mainly the Black American experience and the struggles she had to face. Some of her notable works include The Bluest Eye (1970), Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981), Sula (1974) and many more. She has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Nobel prize in Literature in 1933 and many other awards that celebrated her success in the English Literature field. She started writing in her childhood and her writing style is also influenced by her childhood that was surrounded by intimacy with the supernatural and it is said that she used visions and signs to predict the future as well. Morris was brought up in a household where storytelling was a part of their household and as a result of that, she was influenced to write.
Another interesting piece of trivia is that “Toni” was actually a nickname she started going by in college in order to avoid confusion with pronunciation. It is also believed that a house fire damaged some of her manuscripts and about one hundred firefighters from two towns responded to the fire that was burning her house in New York. Toni believed that she could write but she never believed that she was a good mother and therefore never married after her divorce. Toni was also the first African-American recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature not only that she was also the first African-American to hold a named chair at an Ivy League University.
6. Doris Lessing
Doris May Lessing was a British-Zimbabwean novelist. Doris attended an all girl’s convent school but ended her studies at the age of 14 and moved from her home. Before writing, she worked as a nursemaid, stenographer, telephonist and also journalist. In her writing career, she wrote around 50 books expanding and covering various genres. Her writing penetrated studies of living conditions in the 20th century, behavioural patterns and historic developments. The Golden Notebook 1962, is one of her most experimental novels that studied women, sexuality, political ideas, etc. Her work besides being phenomenal was also considered ahead of its time. Doris Lessing won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007 when she lived in the United Kingdom. Some other notable works by Denis are, The Grass Singing, Children of Violence, The Memoir of a Survivor, Time Bites, etc
Hope you enjoyed the contribution of women in English Literature, these women were very interesting women of their time. Discovering about these women can be very inspiring and makes a lot of us courageous enough to do what we love to do.