Have you been making use of your library card? Here is a small selection of notable women writers who have improved fiction. If you haven’t already read some of their work you should make it a point to add them to your reading list before the year is finished. You’ll be glad you did. This listing is in alphabetical order:
Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888) is best known for her novel Little Women which is part of a series dealing with the March Sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Later novels in the series include: Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys. She published over twenty novels, most of which we never hear about.
Jane Austen (1775 -1817), unlike Alcott, is well known for all six of her novels, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey. But it’s Pride and Prejudice that has had the most impact. Where would we all be without Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy?
Charlotte Bronte (1816 -1855) is best known for her novel Jane Eyre. Bronte made plain, strong, beautiful and loveable. She had two other published novels: Shirley, and Villette.
Emily Bronte (1818 -1848), who was not to be overshadowed by her older sister Charlotte, published only one novel Wuthering Heights but she is often referred to as the bigger talent. It would be wonderful to see the magnitude of her talent had she not died so young.
Pearl Buck (1892 -1973) was a prolific writer, producing over thirty novels, numerous works of non-fiction and short stories. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature as well as the Pulitzer Prize for her 1931 novel, The Good Earth.
Kate Chopin (1851 – 1904) wrote two novels and a few short story collections. Her most notable work is her novella, The Awakening, about one woman’s search for her sexual identity. A powerhouse of contention for a book produced in 1899. The book has since been revived.
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) is known for her poetics than for novels but she has contributed significantly to the world of writing especially for women writers.
Harper Lee (1926 – ) is best known for her novel on racial inequality in the South, To Kill a Mockingbird. She won a Pulitzer Prize for this novel in 1961. She has been reclusive since the early success of this novel but it is said she is still writing although she hasn’t published another book. Imagine the gems that will be found in her writing room.
Doris Lessing (1919 – ) won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007 for her body of work which includes The Golden Notebook and The Good Terrorist.
Margaret Mitchell (1900 – 1949) is probably one of the most quoted authors. But does she really “give a damn”? Gone with the Wind is also one of the highest selling novels in America. She wrote one other novel, Lost Laysen, published posthumously.
Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) was known mainly for her poetry (and her death) but she did write one novel, The Bell Jar which is said to be loosely reflective of her own mental illness.
Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851) made it cool for women to write about ethical science fiction when she created “The Modern Prometheus” or what we all know as Frankenstein.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896) wrote over ten novels but is best known for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with its strong antislavery theme. She didn’t just write about it, she lived it. Her writing and actions was one of the first steps towards the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Alice Walker (1944 – ) created a stirring novel about an emotionally and physically abused black woman in the South. The Color Purple won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. She has a number of other novels and short story collections, many that deal with the same issues.
Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) probably influenced us more with her non-fiction than her fiction; like her most notable essay Room of One’s Own but she also wrote eight novels including Mrs. Dalloway.
There are many women who have had a positive and forward moving effect on literature but this space is small so I’ve limited it to fifteen. If you think that someone absolutely should be mentioned then please share them in the comments.
This piece was originally posted on 7/29/2008 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.