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6 Influential Female Authors and How They Shaped Literature

Throughout literature, women have played a huge role. Here are 6 celebrated female authors who paved the way to civil rights, women’s rights, and literary prowess.

1. Toni Morrison: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

Born in 1931, Morrison raised two kids alone while writing her renowned novel, The Bluest Eye, often waking up at 4am to write. Her stories welcome in the black experience, discussing racial issues of her time through the eyes of extraordinary black female characters. Her literary prowess is unparalleled to many writers in her time. Her command of language draws you in to her strange, often disturbing accounts of black women. Her works have spanned across time and are still heavily debated today.

2. Virginia Woolf: “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”


Born in 1882, Woolf shaped a new literature style of her era, a modernist though she was, her style seems to capsulate a postmodern style. Her style was distinctly varying from the others in her era. She wrote from many characters viewpoints, focusing on both internal dialogue and omniscient. Her roaming narrative was distinct for her time. She wrote in what she called “shivering fragments,”. She liked to speak to problems of the time though her essays and stories, often challenging traditional values in her novels.

3. Maya Angelou: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”


Born in 1928, Angelou spoke out about being sexually abused, bringing attention to a topic that wasn’t readily discussed. Her novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was urged into existence by friend and author James Baldwin, who encouraged her to write her story. Angelou, not only being an incredible writer and poet, focused much of her efforts on Civil Rights, and was a close friend to Dr. King. Maya Angelou joined the Harlem Writer’s Guild and carved her way into the beating hart of literature forever with her stunning works.

4. Mary Wollstonecraft: “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.”


Born in 1759, Wollstonecraft is known to many as the mother of feminism. Her incomplete novel, Maria; or the Wrongs of Women outlined many of the incredible issues that many married women faced in England in the 1700s. Her novel speaks to women who must compete against one another, to win the affection or respect of men, and the lasting effects of this. Her book was unlike anything the populace had read at the time it was published post-mortem by her husband, William Godwin. Her daughter, writer Mary Shelly, never knew her mother but was greatly influenced by her works. Wollstonecraft wrote many political essays and papers encouraging women’s rights.

5. Harriet Jacobs: “There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment.”


One of the most profound freed slaves of the time was Harriet A. Jacobs, born in 1813, she was born into slavery. He was taught to read by her white mistress before she was sent to another family. Jacobs faced cruelties like no other in her struggle to freedom. To avoid the sexual advances of her master, she married another white man in the town and had two children. Her fight to free them forced her into hiding for 7 years in a small attic. She wrote her book after finally escaping with her and her children into freedom. Because no one respected slaves, free or not, Jacobs and many other slaves at the time, had to get other people to insure that their writing was their own. Her narrative demonstrates her strength and willingness to speak out against oppression and racism. She paved the way for many slave and free women alike at the time.  

6. Harper Lee: “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”


Author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee was born in 1926. Her novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, follows a young girl who was much like Lee in her own youth. Her writing alone enthralled readers. Her style drew her readers in and enchanted them with her dynamic characters. Her book too spoke of racial issues in the South, that during the time of publishing, was still a large issue. Her story created a space for people to discuss the themes of racism, coming-of-age, and many other interwoven themes.

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