42 Must-Read Feminist Female Authors

From Angelou to Woolf, No Two Feminist Authors Are Quite the Same

Maya Angelou
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What is a feminist writer? The definition has changed over time, and in different generations, it can mean different things. For the purposes of this list, a feminist writer is one whose works of fiction, autobiography, poetry, or drama highlighted the plight of women or societal inequalities that women struggled against. Although this list highlights female writers, it's worth noting that gender isn't a prerequisite for being considered "feminist." Here are some notable female writers whose works have a decidedly feminist viewpoint.

Anna Akhmatova


Russian poet recognized both for her accomplished verse techniques and for her complex yet principled opposition to the injustices, repressions, and persecutions that took place in the early Soviet Union. She wrote her best-known work, the lyric poem "Requiem," in secret over a five-year period between 1935 and 1940, describing the suffering of Russians under Stalinist rule.

Louisa May Alcott


Feminist and transcendentalist with strong family ties to Massachusetts, Louisa May Alcott is best known for her 1868 novel about four sisters, "Little Women," based on an idealized version of her own family.

Isabel Allende

(born 1942)

Chilean American writer known for writing about female protagonists in a literary style known as magical realism. She's best known for novels "The House of the Spirits" (1982) and "Eva Luna" (1987).

Maya Angelou


African American author, playwright, poet, dancer, actress, and singer who wrote 36 books and acted in plays and musicals. Angelou's most famous work is the autobiographical "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (1969). In it, Angelou spares no detail of her chaotic childhood.

Margaret Atwood

(born 1939)

Canadian writer whose early childhood was spent living in the wilderness of Ontario. Atwood's most well-known work is "The Handmaid's Tale" (1985). It tells the story of a near-future dystopia in which the main character and narrator, a woman called Offred, is enslaved as a "handmaid" and forced to bear children.

Jane Austen


Jane Austen was an English novelist whose name did not appear on her popular works until after her death. She led a relatively sheltered life, yet wrote some of the best-loved stories of relationships and marriage in Western literature. Her novels include "Sense and Sensibility" (1811), "Pride and Prejudice" (1812), "Mansfield Park" (1814), "Emma" (1815), "Persuasion" (1819) and "Northanger Abbey" (1819).

Charlotte Brontë


Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel "Jane Eyre" is one of the most-read and most-analyzed works of English literature. The sister of Anne and Emily Bronte, Charlotte was the last survivor of six siblings, the children of a parson and his wife, who died in childbirth. It's believed that Charlotte heavily edited Anne's and Emily's work after their deaths.

Emily Brontë


Charlotte's sister wrote arguably one of the most prominent and critically-acclaimed novels in Western literature, "Wuthering Heights." Very little is known about when Emily Brontë wrote this Gothic work, believed to be her only novel, or how long it took her to write.

Gwendolyn Brooks


First African American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize, she earned the award in 1950 for her book of poetry "Annie Allen." Brooks' earlier work, a collection of poems called, "A Street in Bronzeville" (1945), was praised as an unflinching portrait of life in Chicago's inner city.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


One of the most popular British poets of the Victorian era, Browning is best known for her "Sonnets from the Portuguese," a collection of love poems she wrote secretly during her courtship with fellow poet Robert Browning.

Fanny Burney


English novelist, diarist, and playwright who wrote satirical novels about English aristocracy. Her novels include "Evelina," published anonymously in 1778, and "The Wanderer" (1814).

Willa Cather


Cather was an American writer known for her novels about life on the Great Plains. Her works include "O Pioneers!" (1913), "The Song of the Lark" (1915), and "My Antonia" (1918). She won the Pulitzer Prize for "One of Ours" (1922), a novel set in World War I.

Kate Chopin


Author of short stories and novels, which included "The Awakening" and other short stories such as "A Pair of Silk Stockings," and "The Story of an Hour," Chopin explored feminist themes in most of her work.

Christine de Pizan


Author of "The Book of the City of Ladies," de Pizan was a medieval writer whose work shed light on the lives of medieval women.

Sandra Cisneros

(born 1954)

Mexican American writer is best known for her novel "The House on Mango Street" (1984) and her short story collection "Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories" (1991).

Emily Dickinson


Recognized among the most influential of American poets, Emily Dickinson lived most of her life as a recluse in Amherst, Massachusetts. Many of her poems, which had strange capitalization and dashes, can be interpreted to be about death. Among her most well-known poems are "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," and "A Narrow Fellow in the Grass."

George Eliot


Born Mary Ann Evans, Eliot wrote about social outsiders within political systems in small towns. Her novels included "The Mill on the Floss" (1860), "Silas Marner" (1861), and "Middlemarch" (1872).

Louise Erdrich

(born 1954)

A writer of Ojibwe heritage whose works focus on Native Americans. Her 2009 novel "The Plague of Doves" was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Marilyn French


American writer whose work highlighted gender inequalities. He best-known work was her 1977 novel "The Women's Room."

Margaret Fuller


Part of the New England Transcendentalist movement, Margaret Fuller was a confidant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a feminist when women's rights were not robust. She's known for her work as a journalist at the New-York Tribune and her essay "Woman in the Nineteenth Century."

Charlotte Perkins Gilman


A feminist scholar whose best-known work is her semi-autobiographical short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," about a woman suffering from mental illness after being confined to a small room by her husband.

Lorraine Hansberry


Lorraine Hansberry is an author and playwright whose best-known work is the 1959 play "A Raisin in the Sun." It was the first Broadway play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway.

Lillian Hellman


Playwright best known for the 1933 play "The Children's Hour," which was banned in several places for its depiction of a lesbian romance.

Zora Neale Hurston


Writer whose best-known work is the controversial 1937 novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God."

Sarah Orne Jewett


New England novelist and poet, known for her style of writing, referred to as American literary regionalism, or "local color." Her best-known work is the 1896 short story collection "The Country of the Pointed Firs."

Margery Kempe


A medieval writer known for dictating the first autobiography written in English (she could not write). She was said to have religious visions that informed her work.

Maxine Hong Kingston

(born 1940)

Asian American writer whose work focuses on Chinese immigrants in the U.S. Her best-known work is her 1976 memoir "The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts."

Doris Lessing


Her 1962 novel "The Golden Notebook" is considered a leading feminist work. Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.

Edna St. Vincent Millay


Poet and feminist who received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 for "The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver." Millay made no attempts to hide her bisexuality, and themes exploring sexuality can be found throughout her writing.

Toni Morrison


The first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1993, Toni Morrison's best-known work is her 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Beloved," about a formerly enslaved woman who is haunted by her daughter's ghost.

Joyce Carol Oates

(born 1938)

Prolific novelist and short-story writer whose work deals with themes of oppression, racism, sexism, and violence against women. Her works include "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" (1966), "Because it is Bitter, and Because it is My Heart" (1990) and "We Were the Mulvaneys" (1996).

Sylvia Plath


Poet and novelist whose best-known work was her autobiography "The Bell Jar" (1963). Sylvia Plath, who suffered from depression, also is known for her 1963 suicide. In 1982, she became the first poet to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously, for her "Collected Poems."

Adrienne Rich


Adrienne Rich was an award-winning poet, longtime American feminist, and prominent lesbian. She wrote more than a dozen volumes of poetry and several nonfiction books. Rich won the National Book Award in 1974 for "Diving Into the Wreck," but refused to accept the award individually, instead sharing it with fellow nominees Audre Lorde and Alice Walker.

Christina Rossetti


English poet known for her mystical religious poems, and the feminist allegory in her best-known narrative ballad, "Goblin Market."

George Sand


French novelist and memoirist whose real name was Armandine Aurore Lucille Dupin Dudevant. Her works include "La Mare au Diable" (1846), and "La Petite Fadette" (1849).


(c.610 B.C.-c.570 B.C.)

Most well-known of the ancient Greek women poets associated with the island of Lesbos. Sappho wrote odes to the goddesses and lyric poetry, whose style gave name to Sapphic meter.

Mary Shelley


Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was a novelist best known for "Frankenstein," (1818); married to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Suffragist who fought for women's voting rights, known for her 1892 speech Solitude of Self, her autobiography "Eighty Years and More" and "The Woman's Bible."

Gertrude Stein


Gertrude Stein's Saturday salons in Paris drew artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Her best-known works are "Three Lives" (1909) and "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" (1933). Toklas and Stein were longtime partners.

Amy Tan

(born 1952)

Her best-known work is the 1989 novel "The Joy Luck Club," about the lives of Chinese American women and their families.

Alice Walker

(born 1944)

Alice Walker's best-known work is the 1982 novel "The Color Purple," winner of the Pulitzer Prize. She's also famous for her rehabilitation of the work of Zora Neale Hurston.

Virginia Woolf


One of the most prominent literary figures of the early 20th century, with novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" and "To the Lighthouse" (1927). Virginia Woolf's best-known work is her 1929 essay "A Room of One's Own."

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Lombardi, Esther. "42 Must-Read Feminist Female Authors." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/must-read-feminist-authors-739724. Lombardi, Esther. (2023, April 5). 42 Must-Read Feminist Female Authors. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/must-read-feminist-authors-739724 Lombardi, Esther. "42 Must-Read Feminist Female Authors." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/must-read-feminist-authors-739724 (accessed May 31, 2023).