Literature may still be saturated with straight white men, but it wouldn’t be the same without feminism and some of the great female authors it helped create. Or did they create it? Never mind the chicken and egg question. Women writers have been breaking barriers throughout history, from the famed poet Sappho in the 6th century BCE to the 18th century revolution voices and even modern-day female writers. Feminism has transformed every facet of literature and changed culture and history.
This article discusses some feminist writers and their contributions to modern literature.
Anne Bradstreet was the first woman to be published in Puritan-era North America. She was a prominent figure in the literature of the period and her works are praised for their historical significance and critical appeal.
Many believe Sappho, who wrote poetry in ancient Greece, was the first female writer. She was celebrated for her work back in antiquity and called “the tenth muse” by Plato. Despite the myriads of controversies, Sappho is a celebrated writer, feminist, and lesbian role model.
The mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley was a feminist and pioneering writer. Among the most important early feminist works was her “Vindication of the Rights of Women.” Wollstonecraft laid the foundations for the women’s suffrage movement and has inspired generations of writers.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
The author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an epic anti-slavery novel, was a famous anti-abolitionist. After it was published, her novel sparked national outrage on both sides of the barrier. Critics have praised its massive impact not only on literature, but on American history as a whole. Stowe was a role model to writers after her like Zora Neale Hurston “the black woman is the mule of the world” and Toni Morrison.
Jane Austen is just as significant to the British and world literary traditions as the great Shakespeare. Her classic love stories changed literature, defining the romance novel. Her writing is praised for its feminist ideals because it offered a poignant portrayal of women’s low social status and dependency on marriage.
Mistral, whose real name was Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, was a novelist, poet, educator, and diplomat from Chile. She was also the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. She started writing poems as a way to deal with a loved one’s death. Her humanitarian work transformed the Mexican and Chilean education systems.
Back in 1921, Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer in Prize for Literature, changing literature and history forever with her work The Age of Innocence (for which she won). Her honesty and insight was refreshing and genre-defining.