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Women's History Month

Unexpected Lives of Women Authors


If you enjoyed my earlier post on the Unexpected Lives of Women, here are some authors who did or wrote about things that were different from the status quo at the time.

George Eliot, wrote under pen name of a man so that she would not be seen as, what was considered at that time, merely another writer of romances. Other female writers who have used male pen names include George Sand, and more recently, writers such as Nora Roberts who have used gender-neutral initials, as J.D. Robb, for various reasons.

Mary WollstonecraftMary WollstonecraftMary Shelley, best known as the author of Frankenstein (written, incidentally, during a long winter night as a contest with some of the leading male Romantic writers of the day, including Lord Byron, in order to determine who could write the best supernatural story), was also the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of the Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), a key work to the emergence of the feminist movement.

Octavia Butler, an African-American woman, wrote in a genre, science fiction, that was predominantly written by white males, and she did it in a way that changed that genre forever.

Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea as a “prequel” to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, essentially “remixing” it to remark on the Caribbean, where she grew up and to address themes of “imperialism, capitalism, religion, racism, classism, and sexism”.

Zora Neale HurstonZora Neale HurstonZora Neale Hurston drew on folklore to create groundbreaking fiction, inspiring modern writers such as Alice Walker. She also worked as a librarian at points in her life, including at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

I don’t have the space to write about all the landmark female authors that have changed literature through their contributions, but I invite you to explore NYPL’s holdings of literature by great female authors, past and present.


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