Women, since a very long time, have been kept repressed. While the dynamics might be changing now, this was not the case a long time back. Women were relegated to the corners of the household, and there was no sense of achievement for them ever.
Women who wanted to make a name for themselves had to do either so in secrecy or under male pseudonyms.
This Women’s Day, we bring for you these 9 strong women who carved a niche for themselves when they decided to enter the relatively men’s world of writing and getting books published under their name without using a man’s help.
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#1. Virginia Woolf
Born as Adeline Virginia Stephen, she was one of the foremost modernist writers of the 20th century. Her most famous works includes novels, Mrs. Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, Orlando and a collection of short essays, A Room Of One’s Own. She started the trend of non-liner narratives that was later picked on by her peers, and earned her much praise. She used to get bouts of depression, and ultimately committed suicide by jumping in the river.
P.S.: Did you know that her mother, Julia Prinsep Stephen was born in British India?
#2. Jane Austen
Who can forget the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice?
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Well, this sentence was written by the famous Jane Austen and this novel, is till today considered one-of-its-kind for the kind of society it portrayed, and the romance shown between the main characters, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Jane Austen’s entire plethora of work contains only six novels, but these novels have a fan following that is huge, and proudly call themselves Janeite’s. Her novels include Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
#3. Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte is the author of the most famous novel, Jane Eyre. She was born into a relatively well-off family, but suffered huge personal losses early in her life. Her mother and two elder sisters died when she was quite young, and she was left to take care of her younger sisters and brother. All the three sisters started writing under the pseudonym of “Bell”. And, they gained immense popularity following the publication of their novels. And, her sister Emily Bronte too, got famous for her book, Wuthering Heights.
#4. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is a poet and award-winning author known for her acclaimed memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and her numerous poetry and essay collections. Born as Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928, she was an actor, writer, poet, social activist all rolled in one. During her lifetime she published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. Her famous poem, Still I Rise is a great inspiration for many females even today. She was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of five, and for almost five years after his death she could not speak a word. She felt that “I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone …” However, she overcame her fear and started writing and talking again.
#5. Agatha Christie
Born in England as Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, she has to her credit over 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She was an English crime novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her most popular characters were those of Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Parker Pyne, Harley Quin/Mr. Satterthwaite, and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. She even tried her hand at writing romantic novels, however she is best known for her detective works. Her stage play, The Mousetrap is till today the longest running play ever. As of 2015, it has had over 25,000 performances. Some of her most famous novels are And Then There Were None, The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, and Murder On The Orient Express.
#6. Arundhati Roy
Suzzanna Arundhati Roy is an Indian author who is best known for her novel, The God Of Small Things for which she won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997. This was her only novel which was ever published. She is now a social activist and a world citizen. After her novel, she wrote a television series by the name of The Banyan Tree and a documentary, Damage: A Film With Arundhati Roy. She also contributed to We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, a book released in 2009 that explored the culture of people around the world, portraying their diversity and the threats to their existence. The royalties from the sale of this book go to the indigenous rights organisation, Survival International. She has even written numerous essays on contemporary politics and culture, which have been collected by Penguin India in a five-volume set.
#7. Danielle Steel
Danielle Steel, born as Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel is currently the bestselling author alive and the fourth bestselling author of all time. Her best known novels are The Gift, Sisters, Heartbeat, and The Promise. Her novels have been criticised for following the tried and tested path where a rich and well-to-do family is plagued by social problems. But, she has tried to do away with it, and has started working on novels where her woman characters are strong, and if they find their relationships to be stifling then they have the guts to walk away from them.
#8. Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri born as Nilanjana Sudeshna, is best known for the novel, The Namesake (2003) which was even adapted in a movie by the same name starring Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Kal Penn. Her first short story collection, Interpretor Of Maladies (1999) won her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000. She later went on to write other fiction as well as non-fiction books and essays. Her novel, The Namesake was inspired from her own life as she “felt embarrassed by her name as most of her teachers in America could not pronounce her name correctly.” She was again nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 for her novel, The Lowland; however, it was won by James McBride. Her later short story collection, Unaccustomed Earth achieved the rare distinction of debuting at number 1 on The New York Times bestseller list. New York Times Book Review editor, Dwight Garner, stated:
“It’s hard to remember the last genuinely serious, well-written work of fiction- particularly a book of stories—that leapt straight to No. 1; it’s a powerful demonstration of Lahiri’s newfound commercial clout.”
#9. J. K. Rowling
No list can be complete without a mention of this celebrated female author, Joanne Kathleen Rowling, or as she is called “The Queen” by her fans all over the world. She is the author of the famous fantasy series about the boy wizard and his adventures in the imaginary school, Hogwarts. The Harry Potter series are loved by millions of people all over the world. She conceptualised the idea of Harry Potter when the train she was travelling in to King’s Cross station got late. J. K. Rowling has seen the toughest of times in her life, but that did not deter her in her mission. She went from being on state aid to multi-millionaire status within a period of five years when she wrote, and published the books of the Harry Potter series. She is associated with various charities like Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Lumos (formerly the Children’s High Level Group).
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Well, these women surely are an inspiration for all the girls out there. Which is your favourite female author? Do let us know in the comments section below.