As an English major and writer, I’ve always been fascinated by the female literary voices who have come before me. It’s a common critique that academic curriculums are dominated by male authors’ classic works, leaving little room to study the expansive history of women’s literature. Whether it was writing under male pseudonyms or single-handedly birthing the genre of science fiction, women have been shaping the world of literature for centuries.
Women’s literature only reached prominence towards the end of the nineteenth century, following the rise of the women’s suffrage movement and the advancement of women’s education. Although this period turned out more female writers than ever before, we know from the early works of authors like Jane Austen and Mary Shelley that women had been writing groundbreaking books long before that.
If you’re looking to explore more classics by women or simply want to add more awe-inspiring books to your collection, here are five books that deserve a spot on your bookshelf.
1. “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery
Captivating readers for generations, “Anne of Green Gables” follows imaginative orphan Anne Shirley. When an unexpected mishap sends Anne to live with the elderly Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, they are surprised to find a talkative red-headed girl in the place of the orphan boy whose arrival they were anticipating. Ultimately deciding to allow Anne to stay, the Cuthberts -- and the wider town of Avonlea -- soon find themselves completely charmed by the eccentric girl.
2. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
With the publication of her novel “Frankenstein” in 1818, Mary Shelley not only effectively birthed the science fiction genre but also created a monster that would haunt popular media for centuries. The classic novel tells the familiar tale of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist whose quest to create human life spirals into an uncontrollable monster with deadly consequences.
3. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
In this classic coming of age story, once-orphaned Jane Eyre is sent to live in the employ of the mysterious Edward Rochester as a young woman. Despite the aura of secrecy surrounding Rochester, Jane soon finds herself falling in love with him. But a dark secret lurks in the attic of his home and Jane soon discovers that Rochester has been hiding a devastating truth from her.
4. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
Spanning over seven hundred pages, Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” follows the lives of the beloved March sisters: Jo, Beth, Meg, and Amy. Chronicling both their childhood and young adult years against the backdrop of the Civil War, “Little Women” is a timeless story about familial love, overcoming domiciliary struggles, and pursuing one’s dreams.
5. “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton
S.E. Hinton was only seventeen years old when she wrote what would become an American classic. The novel -- which would go on to be taught in countless school curriculums -- tells the story of Ponyboy, a Greaser from the East Side of town. Ponyboy’s world is divided by the Greasers and their rivals, the Socs, from the wealthier, West Side of town. The conflict between the warring gangs reaches a catalyst when an act of violence prompts a downward spiral of events.
Well, there you have it, collegiettes! I think a Barnes and Noble run might be in order.