Some of history’s most significant women have been authors, poets, and essayists, breaking down societal barriers, challenging the status quo, and defying the rules through the art of writing. So, who is in charge of the literary world? GIRLS. It’s time to recognize the authors who changed the literature world because women writers have been making a lot of progress for a very long time.
Not that you ever need an occasion to sing the praises of outstanding women in literature, but it’s not too late to recognize the numerous female authors who have made history.
While the list could go on and on, here are 10 female authors who have made history. Read their books, discuss their experiences, and honor their efforts. Literature would not be the same without them.
Female Authors Who Shaped Literature
Although it is infamous for the over-saturation of white, straight, male authors, literature would not be the same without the world’s female authors. Women have continuously impacted the landscape of writing, and hence our culture and history, from the legendary female poet of the sixth century BCE to the revolutionary voices of the 18th century early feminist movement to today’s 21st century current authors.
Women authors, despite their global importance, are frequently underrepresented in publications, bestseller lists, and literary awards. Let’s recognize everything female authors have contributed to readers and the globe.
Jane Austin (1775 – 1817)
Jane Austen, an English novelist, is one of the most well-known 18th-century novelists, best known for her six main works. Austen was one of the first female writers to produce works that criticized and commented on the British landed nobility. She specialized in plots that examined women’s reliance on marriage or women seeking economic security.
As a result, many of Austen’s works were published anonymously, and she achieved little fame during her lifetime. She rose to prominence as a writer after her death, with her six full-length novels rarely being out of print. Her books have also been adapted for film, with a variety of critical articles and anthologies following them.
Jane Austen’s Famous Works
Sense and Sensibility – First published anonymously by ‘A Lady,’ it chronicles the narrative of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they reach adulthood and are forced to leave the estate where they grew up with their widowed mother.
Pride and Prejudice – A novel about Elizabeth Bennet, who learns about the consequences of rash decisions and the distinction between superficial kindness and true goodness.
Emma – A comedy of manners about the worries of genteel ladies in Georgian-Regency England, emphasizing marriage, sex, age, and social standing.
J.K Rowling (1965 -)
Joanne Rowling OBE, better known by her literary name J. K. Rowling, is a British author, film producer, and screenwriter best known for writing the top-selling Harry Potter series.
Rowling came up with the idea for the Harry Potter series while traveling on a delayed train to London in 1990, after serving as a researcher and secretary for Amnesty International. Rowling worked on the first book version for seven years, and it was refused by twelve different publishers before even being purchased by Barry Cunningham, who gave her the platform she needed to begin her fanciful book series.
Rowling is the best-selling living author in the United Kingdom and the best-selling children’s novelist in history, having won numerous honors and selling over 500 million copies of her works.
J.K Rowling’s Famous Work
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – In the first novel in the collection; Harry is a wizard who stays with his non-magical (muggle) relatives until he is enrolled in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on his eleventh birthday. Six sequels followed, covering Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts with pals Hermione and Ron, as well as his attempts to fight Lord Voldemort, who murdered Harry’s parents when he was a youngster.
Rowling’s debut book for adult readers, The Casual Vacancy, is a mature murder mystery that explores complicated themes such as class, politics, and adult societal issues. The novel sold the most copies in the United Kingdom in three years and had the second best-selling opening week for adult fiction in history.
Emily Brontë (1818 – 1848)
Emily Brontë, sister to the aforementioned Charlotte Brontë, was another prominent female Victorian writer better known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights.
Brontë was also a prolific poet, publishing her work under the pen name Ellis Bell, and her writing was and still is recognized as ‘genius’ at the time. Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, her most famous collection of works, was a collection of pieces published under the pseudonyms of her sisters Charlotte and Anne.
Emily Brontë’s Famous Work
Poems by Currer Ellis and Acton Bell – A poetry collection produced by the three Bront sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. It was their first piece of work to appear in print.
Wuthering Heights – A major impact on Romantic and Gothic fiction about two landed gentry families living on the West Yorkshire moors – the Earnshaws and the Lintons – and their troubled interactions with Earnshaw’s adopted son, Heathcliff.
Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)
Though eloquently remembered by Nicole Kidman in the film The Hours, the modernist writer Virginia Woolf’s life was considerably more nuanced than a cinematic slice of life could represent. Her story also includes mental illness, a profound influence on twentieth-century modernism, and her feminist work, namely the oft-quoted long essay A Room of One’s Own. She declares in it, “A woman must have money and her own room if she is to create fiction.”
Virginia Woolf’s Famous Works
Mrs. Dalloway is a fictional high-society figure. Clarissa Dalloway, who lives in post-World War I England, recounts a day in her life.
To the Lighthouse is a philosophical reflection novel about the Ramsay family and their vacations to the Scottish Isle of Skye between 1910 and 1920.
A Room of One’s Own – An extensive essay based on two lectures Woolf gave concerning social inequalities against women in October 1928 at Newnham College and Girton College.
Harper Lee (1926 – 2016)
Harper Lee was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist best remembered for her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel went on to win her the Nobel Prize in 1961, propelling her to literary glory as an accomplished author.
Lee’s work was inspired by her youth in Monroeville, Alabama. From 1926 through 1938, her father, a former newspaper editor, businessman, and lawyer served in the Alabama State Legislature. He defended two black males accused of killing a white shopkeeper during his time in this position. Both men were convicted of the crime and hanged, laying the groundwork for Harper Lee’s famous novel.
Lee has received various awards and honorary degrees as a result of the book’s tremendous success, including the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction in 2015 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 for her services to writing.
Harper Lee’s writings are now widely taught in schools across the United States, encouraging pupils to learn more about empathizing with tolerance and dispelling prejudice towards others. British librarians even put the work ahead of the Bible in 2006, calling it a novel that “every adult should read before they die.”
Harper Lee’s Famous Work:
A book about justice, To Kill a Mockingbird addresses the grave concerns of rape and racial inequity. Based on Lee’s memories of an incident that happened in her hometown when she was a child.
Go Set a Watchman, is the second of Harper Lee’s two novels. Go Set a Watchman was originally released as a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, but it is now widely believed that it was the first draught of the aforementioned work, with parallels to the original storyline.
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)
Emily Dickinson, a brilliant nineteenth-century American poet, was a prodigy, producing about 1,800 poems, just ten of which were published while she was alive. Her lyrical, rhythmic poetry is daring and unorthodox, with iambic trimeter and tetrameters punctuated by dashes.
Emily Dickinson’s Famous Works
Her work ranged from nature to philosophy, and it was innovative and smart (“Because I could not stop for Death”), haunting and mocking (“I’m Nobody! “Who are you?”), or fervent and longing (“Wild nights – Wild nights!”).
She is now regarded as one of the two most influential nineteenth-century American poets, alongside Walt Whitman.
Malala Yousafzai (1997 -)
Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which she received in 2014 for her commitment to female education. She is the daughter of a schoolteacher at a girls’ school in Pakistan, and she wrote for BBC Urdu about the value of girls’ education. The Taliban targeted her for her advocacy when a masked gunman shot her in the head on her school bus in October 2012. However, after waking up ten days later in a hospital in Birmingham, England, she continued to push for girls’ educational rights.
Malala Yousafzai Famous Works
I Am Malala: The Story of a Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban in her memoir. Her debut book, I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World, was quickly followed by two children’s picture books, Malala’s Magic Pencil and Malala’s Magic Pencil. Making other refugees’ voices heard became her objective with the collection of short stories We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World, in which Malala and nine other displaced girls talked honestly and courageously about their circumstances.
Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, written in Oakland, had a huge impact on Asian American literature and society, both as a publishing success and as a rich depiction of the interconnected lives of four Chinese American families living in San Francisco. Tan, who has openly discussed mental illness, shows it amid the complexity of Asian American mother-daughter relationships, from both mother’s and daughter’s perspectives. The work acknowledged all sides of the immigrant cultural conundrum, with conflicting desires for independence and freedom and obedience to family and culture. Tan went on to co-write the script for Wayne Wang’s film adaptation of the novel.
Amy Tan’s Famous Work
Tan is the author of several works, including The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Hundred Secret Senses, two children’s books, and Where The Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir.
Arundhati Roy (1961 -)
Arundhati Roy is best known for her 1997 mega-bestseller The God of Small Things, which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and established her as the bestselling non-expat Indian author. Though Roy wrote fiction, she was inspired by her childhood memories in Aymanam, Kerala, India. The story, which centers on the lives of fraternal twins, explores how “small things” affect human existence.
Arundhati Roy’s Famous Work
Roy began her career as a TV and film screenwriter, and she began writing the television series “The Banyan Tree.” Her impassioned political advocacy found an outlet in her collection of essays, My Seditious Heart, published in 2019. Roy has criticized American capitalism and its war in Afghanistan, while also calling for Kashmiri secession. Her second book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, was released in June 2017 and was named to the Man Booker Prize 2017 longlist as well as nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.
Alice Walker (1944 -)
Even though all of the female writers on our list are brilliant in their own right, Alice Walker stands out as one of the most famous in female literary history. Throughout her career, she has also released seventeen novels and short tales, twelve non-fiction books, and several collections of essays and poetry.
Alice Walker’s Famous Work:
For her novel The Color Purple, she became the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1982. Since then, she has received over 15 different honors for her creative work and social activity, including the Global Exchange Domestic Human Rights Award (2007) and induction into both the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame (2001) and the California Hall of Fame for History, Women, and the Arts (2006).
All of the authors on this list have been recognized by history as one the greatest artists of all time, with their work being adapted for film and television. These Women are boundary pushers who paved the way for today’s writers. Consider this: Each of the women listed above had to deal with society’s expectations of her not only as a woman, a person of color, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, or all of the above, but also as a scriptwriter, author, poet, or science fiction writer. These women persevered, whether it’s a century ago or a year ago, and we, as writers, stand on their shoulders now.