Tuesday, March 15, 2011

25 Female Writers Who Changed History



Courtesy of http://www.bestcollegesonline.net/blog/2011/25-female-writers-who-changed-history/

Female writers have given us some of the greatest novels, short stories, poems and essays ever written. But this kind of recognition didn't come easily for most women. For centuries, female writers struggled to get their work noticed, let alone praised. Some used male pen names, initials or remained anonymous so that their work wouldn't be discounted because they were female. Thanks to the work of progressive female writers, women finally earned the same fundamental rights as men and people began noticing their talent before their gender. In no particular order, here are 25 female writers who changed history:

1. Charlotte Bronte: Charlotte Bronte was an English poet and author, who is best known for her novel Jane Eyre, which was written under her pen name Currer Bell. Although she had a small number of published works, Bronte made a significant impact in both the literary world and society by highlighting the daily struggles of oppressed women in her written works. She was truly one of the most modern women of her time, and certainly helped pave the way for modern feminism.

2. Virginia Woolf: Virginia Woolf was a literary genius who broke the mold for 20th century novelists. The modernist was known for her experimental fiction writing and influential feminist essays that enlightened readers on Britain's class and gender differences. Woolf's work has impacted readers, writers, historians, scholars and all those who've studied her innovative work and mastery of the English language.

3. Harriet Beecher Stowe: Harriet Beecher Stowe changed history with her influential anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Not only was Uncle Tom's Cabin the best-selling novel of the 19th century, but it also played an important role in the development of the Civil War. Stowe was a progressive thinker and fierce abolitionist, who wrote about real life issues of inequality and stereotypes and had the power to open up millions of Americans' hearts.

4. Jane Austen: Jane Austen is best known for her popular romantic fiction novels, such as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Austen's work is the focus of academic study for scholars and critics because of its historical context and mastery of literary techniques. Austen greatly influenced English literature with her use of literary realism, social commentary and techniques that told the compelling stories of 18th century and 19th century women.

5. Maya Angelou: Maya Angelou is arguably the most famous African-American autobiographer and poet in history. Angelou broke the mold when she wrote her six autobiographical volumes in a nontraditional structure that completely challenged the genre. Angelou opened up to readers and shared her controversial life stories without shame or censorship. Her candidness and unique literary style pushed the boundaries for all female writers and changed the face of autobiographies forever.

6. Emily Dickinson: Emily Dickinson was an influential poet whose style was unlike anyone else's. Dickinson was an innovator, who used unconventional techniques, such as short lines, slant rhyme and unusual capitalization and punctuation that garnered both attention and criticism. During the late 19th and early 20th century, critics denounced Dickinson's individual style and literary prowess, but later praised her originality and talent as a pre-modernist poet.

7. Louisa May Alcott: American author Louisa May Alcott was best known for her novel Little Women. Alcott received critical acclaim for her literary work, as well as her involvement in various reform movements, including women's rights and ending slavery. Through her professional and personal life, she has inspired and empowered women of all ages to be independent and follow their dreams regardless of what society says.

8. Mary Shelley: Mary Shelley is a British writer, who is best known for the widely-read Gothic novel Frankenstein. Shelley pushed the boundaries of traditional Romanticism and Gothic fiction when she developed her own brand of the artistic movement that criticized individualism and challenged the traditional 18th century school of thought. Shelley's work has been at the forefront of feminist literary criticism and academic study for decades. She is now regarded as an influential writer and Romantic figure, who wasn't afraid to voice her political beliefs.

9. Harper Lee: American writer, Harper Lee, is best known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It is Lee's only published book, but the critically-acclaimed bestseller made quite an impact on its own. Much of the book is autobiographical and details what Lee saw as a child growing up in the South. The powerful story deals with racial inequality and injustice in the Deep South. Lee's classic novel has had a profound effect on Americans of all ages, races and backgrounds, and her contributions to social justice and peace earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

10. Ayn Rand: Ayn Rand was a Russian writer who is most widely known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Rand's written works were heavily based on her political views and emphasis on individual rights. Her books received vast amounts of praise and criticism, but were commercially successful, nonetheless. Rand's eye-opening work has impacted various political, social and academic fields and encouraged readers to re-evaluate their political and ethical views.

11. J.K. Rowling: British author J.K. Rowling is best known for writing the ever-popular Harry Potter fantasy series. Rowling's whimsical novels have inspired generations of kids to read and get excited about what they're reading. Her books have also inspired readers on a social, moral and political base. Even her personal story of rags to riches has influenced readers to never give up on their dreams.

12. Sylvia Plath: Sylvia Plath was an acclaimed American poet and novelist. Plath was best known for her confessional poetry collections: The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. She became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for her work. Plath's compelling poems spoke to women of all backgrounds, and were extremely influential during the feminist movement.

13. S.E. Hinton: American novelist S.E. Hinton is best known for her young adult books, most notably, The Outsiders. Hinton began writing The Outsiders at 15 years old and it was published when she was 18 years old. Hinton became a household name and instant success with The Outsiders, which still sells more than 500,000 copies each year. Hinton has made a lasting impression with her literary work that effectively connects readers to the emotions and experiences of teenagers.

14. Margaret Mitchell: Author Margaret Mitchell is best known for writing the American classic Gone With the Wind. The novel was an instant success, selling more than a million copies in the first six months. Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize for her wildly popular novel. Mitchell changed history when she wrote arguably the best romantic novel of all time. Not only did the story capture the hearts of millions of readers worldwide, but Mitchell's masterful use of symbolism and treatment of archetypes made it truly original.

15. Judy Blume: American author Judy Blume is best known for her children's and young adult novels that touch on a wide variety of controversial topics, such as racism, religion, teen sex and menstruation. Blume has changed history for the better by tackling real-life issues and questions that affect children and young adults. Her books are often challenged in school libraries because of inappropriate content, but Blume has dedicated her efforts to fighting censorship and preserving intellectual freedom in literature.

16. Flannery O'Connor: Flannery O'Connor is an American fiction writer, who is famous for writing in a Southern Gothic style and emphasizing the grotesque. O'Connor was one of the strongest apologists for Roman Catholicism and often wrote about morality, ethics and contemporary issues. O'Connor had an important role in American literature and, despite increasing secularism at the time, she maintained her theme of divinity. O'Connor was a master of irony and comedy, which came through in each piece of work. Her books are some of the finest examples of comedies in American literature.

17. Pearl S. Buck: Pearl S. Buck was an inspirational American writer who is most widely known for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Good Earth. A great deal of Buck's childhood and adult life was spent in China. Many of her novels describe the peasant life in China, and try to bridge the gap between Americans' views of Chinese people and reality. Buck changed history with her first-hand accounts of life in China and progressive humanitarian efforts that are visible in her written work.

18. George Eliot: George Eliot was an English novelist and leading Victorian writer. Eliot is best known for her novels The Mills on the Floss, Silas Marner, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. She was known for implementing realism and psychological insight in her work. Eliot used her famous male pen name to make sure readers took her work seriously, and to avoid any stereotypes for woman writers of the time. Eliot's work was very influential for the Victorian era and beyond. She broke the mold by writing about politics and societal issues that were taboo for the time.

19. Laura Ingalls Wilder: American author Laura Ingalls Wilder was most widely known for writing the Little House series of books, specifically the Little House on the Prairie. Wilder based these novels on her childhood and growing up in a pioneer family. The popular Little House books continue to be a main staple in American children's literature and have been translated into 40 different languages. Wilder's compelling stories and mastery of literary techniques helped set the precedent for future children's books.

20. Mary Wollstonecraft: Mary Wollstonecraft may have been known as the mother of Mary Shelley, but Wollstonecraft was no stranger to writing. Wollstonecraft was an accomplished author and influential public figure, who helped develop British feminism and philosophy. She is best known for her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. Thanks to her outspoken stance on women's rights and denouncement of 18th century educational and political theorists, Wollstonecraft helped grant women equal rights.

21. Alice Walker: Alice Walker is most famous for her novel The Color Purple and she holds the title as the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Walker's writing career and personal life has mostly centered on race and gender inequality. Her written work and political involvement have made her a respected figure among African-Americans and female audiences around the world.

22. Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie was a famous British crime writer who produced popular novels, plays and short stories. Christie is the best-selling female author of all time and the most translated individual author. Christie's commercial success and public appreciation came from her masterful writing skills and ability to build a suspenseful whodunit plot with well-developed characters. Not only did Christie pave the way for crime writers, but she also inspired female authors of all genres to follow suit.

23. Helen Keller: Helen Keller was a world-famous speaker and author, despite her inability to see or hear. Keller wrote 12 published books and articles throughout her life. She published a couple of autobiographies that told her amazing story. Keller is best remembered as the woman who overcame all odds by learning how to read, write and communicate despite her disabilities. Her personal story and determination truly set Keller apart from any other historical figure.

24. Sue Monk Kidd: Sue Monk Kidd is an American writer who is best known for her novel The Secret Life of Bees. This book was an instant success and has spent over 2.5 years on the New York Times bestseller list. It has also been adapted into a play and movie. Kidd's fictional work often focuses on the struggles and victories of women living in the South. Her literary contributions have made quite the impact on readers and Southern writers alike.

25. Edith Wharton: Edith Wharton was an American novelist and short story writer, who is most famous for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age of Innocence. Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature. She was fluent in French and several other languages, and many of her published works are printed in both French and English. Wharton is praised for achieving both social satire and criticism in her work, while mastering the art of humor.


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6 comments:

Mary Vensel White said...

Sue Monk Kidd, really? I suppose this is what lists are for...to agree and disagree. Great testament to women writers--go girls!

astrosioux said...

Great list. Shame not to see Aphra
Behn rate a mention, she did amazing things for women's writing, but is practically forgotten now. Fanny Burney is another who doesn't get enough recognition - read by Jane Austen and from whom Austen stole a lot of material, Fanny Burney's writing is beautiful. She grew up hanging out with people like Samuel Johnson.

The Desert Rocks said...

Love this list...most of my favorites are listed.... How about Willa Cather for number 26?

Sally A Wolf said...

You forgot cynthia voigt

jonathanfigaro said...

Great List. When it comes to books like Uncle Tom's Cabin. The author of such distinct and timeless works of art are rarely forgotten and always remembered and reprise!!

Leslea said...

A fabulous list. I am long overdue to read some Maya Angelou bios. I love her poetry and always appreciate her public speeches.

Very proud to be a distant relative of Laura Ingalls Wilder.