Powerful Women Through History: Iconic Literary Authors

Writer: AbdelRahman Wael

Editor: Nour Diaa

Graphic Designer: Rahaf Hossam

Over the last few centuries, women have finally been able to express themselves in the arts and nowhere was this more apparent than in literature. Until the first wave of feminism in the late 19th century, women were shunned from the arts as a whole and the arts were seen as a masculine endeavour. Thankfully, women have been freed to write whatever they want since then.

Among the first female authors that gained widespread acclaim is Virginia Woolf, who was born in 1882 in London, England to a very well-off family.

Virginia was Inspired by the Russian realist movement with authors like Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy, she was mainly known for her stream of consciousness style of writing; where every single fleeting thought in a character’s head is shared no matter how unimportant. Among her most notable works are Mrs Dalloway: a novel about how time can influence our personal experience, To the Lighthouse: a novel with little to no dialogue or actions and mainly composed of thoughts and Orlando, a critique on double standards for women in English society. Sadly, Virginia suffered from what many modern psychiatrists would characterise as bipolar disorder and she attempted suicide many times in her life until she unfortunately succeeded by drowning herself at the age of 59.

Virginia today is remembered as one of the most influential feminist writers through her many essays. To this day, her legacy continues with every feminist fighting for their rights.

Another great female author, albeit one that was active a bit later than Virginia, is Harper Lee, a novelist who wrote the critically acclaimed book To Kill a Mockingbird which is a book about racism in the Deep South of the US and a book that was based mostly on Harper’s personal experience as a child growing up in Alabama in the 1930’s.The book is focused around a town accusing an African-American for a crime he has no evidence of committing and the trial surrounding it all from the perspective of Scout, a young girl whose father defends the accused and attempts to teach Scout about racial injustice.While Harper only ever released another book called “Go Set a Watchman”, which is just an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, she helped her friend Truman Capote write his books and also helped in her novel’s adaptation to the big screen. She famously didn’t like to do any interviews and avoided public interaction with some exceptions. She died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 89.

There have been many more female authors over the past two centuries and we shall
explore more about them in part two of this article series. Hopefully by understanding the female authors of the past we can learn how women eventually got to be able to vote, work in male dominated jobs and even become world leaders.

Sources in case you want to read more: