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Phenomenal Women: History’s Most Inspiring Female Authors

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GCU chapter.

It’s officially March, which means it’s Women’s History Month. Now is the perfect time to celebrate and learn more about the amazing women from history. There are so many phenomenal women to recognize, but there is not enough space here to acknowledge everyone. To narrow down the list, here are seven female authors that are inspiring and who have helped change literature.

Murasaki Shikibu (978 – 1014)

Did you know that a woman wrote the first-ever novel? Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese writer and a lady-in-waiting. Shikibu’s real name is unknown, but history has associated her as the author of the world’s oldest novel, Tales of the Genji. Written after the death of her husband, Tales of the Genji follows the life of Prince Genji, the emperor’s son. Shikibu’s novel gives readers an insight into what life was like during Japan’s Heian period, especially for women. 

Read more about Murasaki Shikibu.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797)

Mary Wollstonecraft was a well-known feminist political writer. She believed women shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to obtain a formal education. As a writer, she wrote many pamphlets and manifestos that fought for equal rights. Her most popular manifesto, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, became an instant bestseller. Today, Wollstonecraft is recognized as one of the most impactful writers of the feminist movement.

Read more about Mary Wollstonecraft.

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)

Probably the most beloved female writer, Jane Austen is a well-known romance author, literary genius, and early feminist. In Austen’s short life, she wrote six novels, including Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, which were initially published anonymously. While it has been 200 years since her death, people are still reading her books. Austen’s writing stands out because of her quick wit, social commentary, and ability to create complex and realistic characters and relationships. This was unheard of before Austen. Because of this, Austen’s impact on the literary world has inspired and paved the way for many future female writers. 

Read more about Jane Austen.

Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)

Daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley followed in her mother’s footsteps and became the most well-known female Gothic writer today. At 18, Shelley wrote her famous book, Frankenstein, after winning a horror writing contest. Frankenstein tells the story of an ambitious scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who discovers the secret to creating life. With his knowledge, he creates a hideous creature, which causes his demise. With her work in Frankenstein, Shelley is credited as one of the earliest creators of the science fiction genre. 

Read more about Mary Shelley.

Anne Frank (1929 – 1945)

Annelies (Anne) Frank was a young 13-year-old Jewish girl who lived in Nazi-occupied Holland. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, the Frank family went into hiding for two years in the annex of her father’s business. During Anne’s time in hiding, she wrote in her diary about her life in “the secret annex.” She wrote about things like her fights with her mother, her first kiss, and the war. After the Nazis caught her family, the Frank family was sent to a concentration camp, where Anne, along with her mother and sister, died. Today, The Diary of a Young Girl is one of the world’s most-read books, and it has been translated into more than 65 languages.

Read more about Anne Frank.

Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

Originally, Marguerite Annie Johnson, Maya Angelou was an author, poet, screenwriter, and civil rights activist. Before becoming a writer, Angelou had a very difficult life. She was abused, lived in extreme poverty, and experienced racial prejudices and discrimination as a child. Because of her traumatic childhood, Angelou became mute for several years. Her past inspired her to write a book about herself titled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her memoir was immediately popular and remained on bestseller lists for two years. Through Angelou’s resilience and strength, she has inspired many people all over the globe. 

Read more about Maya Angelou.

Joy Harjo (1951 – Present)

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Joy Harjo is a Native American poet, musician, author, and Native American activist. As a Muscogee (Creek) Nation member, many of her writings are inspired by her life and what life is like as a Native American woman. Her most famous poem is titled American Sunrise, which she published in 2019. Because of her work, Harjo became the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019.

Read more about Joy Harjo.

Happy Women’s History Month!

Ireland has always loved words, telling stories and being creative. This is why she is majoring in Professional Writing with a minor in Advertising and Graphic Design at GCU. When she is not writing (which is rare), you can usually find her nose inside a book, crocheting, drinking chai tea lattes or spending time with her tight-knit family and her dog named Lilly.