Following on from International Women’s Day a few weeks back I wanted to create a blog post to honour some of the most successful female authors and also some of my favourite and inspirational authors from yonder years. As there are many female authors I admire for their personalities, abilities and sheer genius I have had to split this into two posts. So first this one will concentrate on the classics and respected women from before this time and the second post will look at female authors who are continuing to show power and strength in today’s market. I hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts. Who are your favourite classic female writers or what’s your favourite work?
One classic that shocked me was Frankenstein but not because of the plot but because it was written by a young woman in a time when women were not given the recognition or respect they deserved. After travelling the Alps with her lover Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, the group were forced to stay indoors due to bad weather. As a result the group told ghost stories and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin at the time, was encouraged to develop Frankenstein into a full length novel. It was originally published in 1818 anonymously and it is believed her then husbands Percy Bysshe Shelley had written the preface to the book which is often found in most editions today.
I love Mary Shelley’s strength as despite belief she had a tough life, after meeting and later marrying Percy Shelley she lost three of her children prematurely only seeing one live into adulthood. If that wasn’t tragic enough Percy Shelley died in a sailing accident when Mary Shelley was only 24 leaving her widowed at a young age. However she continued writing and even edited and published some of Percy Shelley’s work. To this day Frankenstein is considered the first science fiction novel.
It is a fantastic read and one I would definitely recommend, it’s dark, addictive and modern for its time. Every time I pick it up and even read a few pages I find it difficult to understand how a young woman can invent such a creator, a monster and a plot with such intense action.
This American born poet blew my mind when I was first introduced to her work. I couldn’t comprehend how a recluse and introvert could write about such things that she hadn’t fully experienced herself. When she was alive only a few of her poems were published and they were often heavily edited to match the attitude of the time. Now her work is studied in many schools and universities and respected at the highest level. At the time her poems were revolutionary, having short lines, random capitalisation, punctuation and some were even missing titles.
I just loved studying Emily Dickenson, her poetry was moving, memorable and hard hitting. I think everyone will remember studying ‘A Bird Came Down’ in school but it wasn’t until I got to University and was able to study her darker work like ‘Because I could not stop for Death’. Her work did not reach its maximum recognition until after she had passed away and her family found volumes of poems bounded in books. I wonder if all of her works have been published even at this stage or if some of her poems are still hidden from the world. A truly fascinating and without doubt a talented woman in literature.
It’s only fair to mention Jane Austen, another eighteenth century female who had work published in her time, yet has made an outstanding impact on literature today and school/University education. I doubt there is one person who has not studied Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility at some point in their education.
Jane Austen is another author who came close to love and yet she was denied this due to the family of the significant other. Despite this she went on the write about love in the most extraordinary way. Pride and Prejudice is littered with humorous meetings and observations of others at parties and meetings. How people interact when in love and the entire relationship between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy is one of the most renowned in the world. I love Pride and Prejudice and have to mention Jane Austen for this piece alone, this book has so much to give and I hope there will never come a day when this brilliant piece of work is not recognised.
Not only a writer but a public speaker and activist who inspired many with her powerful words, it would be tough not to mention Maya Angelou when talking about successful and powerful women. Her most famous piece of work Why The Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969 talks about her life in Arkansas. She tells the story of her rape by her mother’s boyfriend and how she later felt responsible for his death after her Uncle killed him for his crime. She was mute for five years following but developed a love of reading and later graduated at the top of her class after speaking again at the age of 12.
As Maya got older she was successful in employment and eventually had the opportunity to hear Martin Luther King speaking. Not long after she joined the civil rights movement and ended up working as a coordinator for Dr King. From moving to Cairo and Africa, Maya had the chance to work as a writer and editor and was later encouraged to write an autobiography. After much persuasion she wrote the first of six autobiographies, Why The Caged Bird Sings which was an immediate success and was nominated for a National Book Award. Having achieved so much in her life, Maya Angelou is an inspirational woman in life and not just literature.
One book that I think a lot of people can agree on having made an impact on them is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book is phenomenal in every sense of the word as Scout and Jem grow up and face the many challenges of not only getting older but living in 1930’s Alabama. Up until this year To Kill a Mockingbird was Harper Lee’s only book and it made quite an impact. From winning the Pulitzer Prize and many other awards, it has also been made into a play and a film with Gregory Peck who won best actor in his portrayal of Atticus Finch.
From controversial and banned book throughout the years following its publication, To Kill a Mockingbird today is a very famous and worldwide renowned book. It is popular in the classroom and can be found on many household libraries. It is a book that I loved reading and one I felt touched on many issues in a sensitive and crucial style. After hearing about Harper Lee’s new release this July, I can proudly say that I have already pre-ordered Go Set a Watchman and I am very excited to read it, own it and proudly place it on the shelf next to all of my editions of To Kill a Mockingbird.
I hope you enjoyed this post and don’t forget to check back for Part Two over the next few days…