Feminist Sundays: Classic Works by Women

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Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

This week’s Feminist Sunday was inspired by a tweet by Beth who complained about how difficult it was to find a list of classic works written by women. You know I struggle with the idea of a “classic” and how women are more often than not left out. Also, are 20th century writers considered classics? Why? Why not? So here, I basically thought of 18th and 19th century writers and stopped at Virginia Woolf as a representative of the modernist movement.

Anyway, I thought it would be a great idea if we could all compile a list. Obviously, my aim is not to make a complete list of women writers, but only to put some names and works together that matter much as their male counterparts’.  Join us? I already added the ones that I like and resonate with me. I will also be updating the list as you suggest both authors and works 🙂

17th Century

Mary Astell – A Serious Proposal to the ladies (1694–97)

Margaret Cavendish – The BlazingWorld (1666)

Aphra Behn – The Rover (1677), Oronooko (1688)

18th century

Olympe de Gouges – Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791)

Mary Wollestonecraft – A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

19th century

Jane Austen – Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Emma (1815)

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (1818)

Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre (1847)

Anne Brontë – Agnes Grey (1847), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

Emily Brontë – Wüthering Heights (1847)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)

Emily Dickinson – Poems (mid 19th century)

Harriet Beecher Stowe – Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell – Cranford (1851), Ruth (1853), North and Souht (1855)

Louisa May Alcott – Little Women (1868) and Good Wives (1869)

George Eliot – The Mil on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1874)

Susan Fenimore Cooper – Missions to the Oneidas (1885)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman – The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)

Kate Chopin – The Awakening (1899)

20th century

Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), A Room of One’s Own (1929)

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10 thoughts on “Feminist Sundays: Classic Works by Women

  1. Great list! I would include The Rover by Aphra Behn as well. Its interesting to see a woman’s response to libertine attitudes alongside male writers like Rochester. I think she shows the dark side to libertine lifestyles for women and how its not all fun and games when you’re still so disempowered within society.

  2. Mt first thought when I looked at this was, it seems like such a short list–surely there are more! And I think there are. I don’t have access at the moment to my book list spreadsheet, but looking over some of my smaller lists I do have, I see some names I haven’t read, but whom I believe are generally well-regarded: Sappho and Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz for poetry (both older than your list starts, I believe); Ann Radcliffe and Mary Elizabeth Braddon for gothic novels/early thrillers; and Maria Edgeworth and Fanny Burney published shortly before Austen. I can’t thnkof any others off-hand, but if I remember anyone else I’ll post again. (For one thing, the authors I list are mostly rather British–I’m sure there were women writing in other countries!)

    1. Wow, thanks for the new names, Amanda! And yes, the different names that come to your head when thinking of “male classic writers” and “female classic writers” are so different that, well… There’s some food for thought.

  3. What an excellent list! Any additions I have would probably be more towards the 20th Century, Flannery O’Connor- A Good Man is Hard to Find; Carson McCullers-The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and anything by Muriel Spark. Have you heard of the Read Women 2014 campaign? Go to their Twitter hashtag #readwomen2014 for lots more suggestions, there is some great writing out there…

    1. I do know about them and they usually RT my women writer posts 🙂

      I think those women authors you mention should be included as well, but most people stop their definitions of ‘classics’ with the Modernist movement, so I stopped my list there as well. Wich, by the way, does not mean I subscribe to that belief. On the contrary! Thanks very much for subscribing and commenting.

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