20 Influential Women Writers

March 6, 2024

March 8th, 2024 marks International Women’s Day across the globe. A day that originated back in 1857, International Women’s Day began due to the first organized women’s rights march for equal rights. As represented in the name, International Women’s Day is a day meant for celebrating all of the women in our lives for their hard work and overall existence. Although gender inequalities have been prevalent throughout history (the first book in English that was written by a woman was published only in 1670!), women’s contributions go beyond measures, especially in regards to literature. There have been so many influential women writers throughout history, so in honor of International Women’s Day, here is a composite list of 20 known individual women writers over the decades of our time. 

 

 

1. Mary Shelley

Born in 1797, Shelley was one of the first Gothic writers in history. Although unknown to many, she was actually the author of Frankenstein, the infamous original story of the spooky monster. Now one of the most known characters of all time. Frankenstein has impacted the lives of many, hence why Mary Shelley was, and still is, an immensely influential writer. 

 

2. Sarojini Naidu

As an author and Indian independence activist, Naidu eventually became the President of Indian National Congress. Naidu wrote poetry for a living as well, celebrating Indian Culture and communicating the struggles Indians faced in response to colonizers. Obviously a literature and government hero, Naidu is arguably one of the most influential writers of all time.

 

3. Louisa May Alcott

A hometown resident of Philadelphia, Alcott is a well-known author for the product of the novel Little Women. Throughout the past few years, the story of Little Women has turned into numerous adaptations of the original work, through new books and even movies. The novel has had an obvious sentimental impact on many individuals through the countless adaptations, hence making Louise May Alcott a very influential writer as well. 

 

4. Harper Lee

A more well-known author, Harper Lee wrote her infamous To Kill A Mockingbird novel, focusing on the consequences of racism in society. Her book was so influential that the majority of teenagers today read it in school due to the powerful extent and engaging nature the book has on the injustice of unequal rights. Although she wasn’t the first author to write about racial injustice, her ability to capture a young adult audience and put the heavy situation into understandable terms allows her to be very well deserving of a spot. 

 

5. Betty Friedan 

A women’s activist and author, Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, which is occasionally credited to sparking the revolution of the second wave of American feminism. Using her powerful voice regarding women’s rights and implementing them to the feminist movement, Friedan can’t go unheard of and uncredited to by not being on this list. 

 

6. Agatha Christie  

Another unforgettable author, Christie is known as the best-selling novelist of all time, only to be beat by Shakespeare and the Bible. Although rejected by six publishers before publishing her first ever novel, Agatha proved to be resilient even in tough times, and the end result was an outstanding achievement no one else in history has been able to beat.

 

7. Emily Dickinson

Known as one of the greatest poets of all time, Emily Dickinson has a very rightful spot on this list. Although infamous to us now, Dickinson wrote hundreds of poems that were read only after she died. Nonetheless, her stories challenged pre-existing norms related to poetry in ways never seen before, hence altering the standard of poets forever. 

 

8. J.K Rowling 

A world without the existence of the Harry Potter franchise seems almost unfathomable. Perhaps one of the most well-known authors of our time, J.K Rowling wrote the best selling Harry Potter series. Estimating the series to be about $7.7 billion earned in sales revenue, the novels have been sold in over 80 languages worldwide. Harry Potter theme parks, merchandise, and fans across the world all have J.K Rowling to forever be grateful towards. 

 

9. Wislawa Szymborska

Earning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996, Szymborska is seen to be a revival of poetry. Exploring moral, physiological, and ethical issues, Szymborska highlighted some key issues in literature in a beautifully executed way, earning her a rightful name on this list and a Nobel Prize.

 

10. Sylvia Plath

Another prize winner, Plath won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for some of her work. She is known for heavily advancing the genre of confessional poetry through mass amounts of poems and short stories, likewise contributing to the change of poetry and how it is seen worldwide. 

 

11. Alice Walker 

A social activist and big time author, Alice Walker is best known for her novel The Color Purple. The Color Purple was about a woman’s journey to independence and brought light to sensitive topics, such as abuse in a household and teenage pregnancy. Highlighting issues other authors may be too afraid to discuss, Walker has been incredibly influential, with her novel going on to be adapted into well-known movies.

 

12. Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter was known to be an English writer and scientist, but in reality, she was so much more. Potter reshaped children’s novels forever by her books representing the love children have for nature, her most famous piece being The Tale of Peter Rabbit. As her books are still read in households today, her impact on society is immensely clear, hence why she is another influential woman writer. 

 

13. Sandra Cisneros 

Another popular writer, Cisneros wrote her famous novel The House on Mango Street back in 1984. Her book, similar to Harper Lee’s, is read worldwide in schools, as it highlights the issues of race, gender, and class. Important for young adults to learn the reality of the world, Cisneros’ novel is immensely influential by illustrating big ideas and making them comprehensible for young minds. 

 

14. Maya Angelou

A well known household name, Angelou is famous for being a Civil Rights Activist, as well as an American poet. She wrote 3 books filled with loads of poems discussing sexual oppression, economic values, and racial inequalities. Her most famous poem, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, is likewise read and annotated in classrooms worldwide. 

 

15. Ingeborg Bachmann

Perhaps a less known author to the U.S., Bachmann is famous in the German world. Regarded as a major voice in literature, Bachmann detailed the reality of relationships and culture so explicitly and unrealistically well. Her stories were so exquisite that she even went on to win the Georg Büchner Prize. 

 

16. Maryse Condé

Famous for her novel Segu, Condén is another well known and influential author. Her story, Segu, centralizes around the uprising of slavery, which reached mass amounts of people and informed countless individuals on the harsh reality of the world. Famous for being an influential information messenger, Maryse likewise deserves a spot on the list. 

 

17. Zadie Smith

An English novelist and short story writer, Smith is famous for her deep stories which circle around the matter of race, religion, and cultural identity. Smith is deeply special for the way her novels took the world by storm, as her first book, White Teeth, immediately became a best-seller. Smith likewise made her voice heard by many, as well as the important issues she was covering, hence her influential title. 

 

18. Margaret Atwood  

A winner of the Book, Giller, and Arthur C. Clarke Prize, Atwood is another immensely influential author. She was a Canadian poet and novelist, but she is most famous for creating the Writers’ Trust of Canada, an organization dedicated to helping Canadian writers with every step of their career. Not only a talented writer, but also a community organizer, Atwood is most definitely deserving a spot on the list.

 

19. Virginia Woolf

Considered one of the most important writers in the 20th century, Woolf was a famous and influential English writer. She wrote about the interpretation of women in society, changing the world’s view on women’s day-today role. An inspiring activist and significant contributor to gender equality, Woolf is definitely one of the most innovative writers of the 20th century.

 

20. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Finally, a beautiful Nigerian writer, Adichie is famous for her novels, short stories, and nonfiction works. Adichie focused on central issues regarding authentic pain civilians experienced during the war, as well as being a strategic advocate for gender equality. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the MacArthur Fellowship award, as well as being nominated for a Grammy, Adicihie’s work changed the lives of many, deeming her heavily influential in society. 

 

 

So, there you have it! There are still countless influential women’s writers across the globe who inspire individuals every single day. Be sure to wish all the women in your life a Happy Women’s Day, and look out for the new and upcoming influential writers in today’s world! 

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