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What is the ultimate measure of success? We believe it’s a combination of sales and influence. Please enjoy our humble list, which is just a fraction of the most successful female authors across the world, dead or living.

J. K. Rowling

Joanne “Jo” Rowling is the famous author of the Harry Potter books. The series has won many awards, gained worldwide attention, and sold more than 400 million copies. It is the best-selling book series ever and the film series based on them is also one of the highest-grossing ever even though the writer refused to have them made Hollywood-style. The cast is all-British like Rowling herself, and British-ness is maintained through and through.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

The Canadian writer, poet, literary critic, and environmental activist has won the Booker Prize once (with five nominations), the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature. She was entered in the Canadian Walk of Fame in 2001. Atwood founded the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a not for profit organization that supports writers in Canada.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath is most famous for the Bell Jar, but she has many other works. The American poet and was born in Boston and studied at the University of Cambridge. She and her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes, lived together in the US and then England. Plath lost the battle against depression, which she’d fought almost her whole life.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison focused on the African-American community in her works, but she’s an inspiration even to non-African-American women. The American writer and professor of literature has written a large number of epic novels characterized by fiery, vivid dialogue and complex characters. Her best-known novels include Beloved, Sula, The Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon.

Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1988 and the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1993.

Isabel Allende

Allende is a Chilean-American writer, famous for commercially successful novels such as City of the Beasts and The House of the Spirits. Heralded as “the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author”, Allende won Chile’s National Literature Prize in 2010. Four years later, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then- President Barack Obama.

Gertrude Stein

Stein was an American poet, playwright, and novelist who spent most of her life in France. A Modernist literature pioneer and literary innovator, Stein’s work broke with 19th century linear, narrative, and temporal convention. She was also openly gay, which was unusual at the time she created (early 20th century) – to say the least.