Here are 12 essential works of classic feminist fiction — according to Literary Ladies’ Guide. Some of the books listed were considered daring (and sometimes shocking) in their time. Because of the courage and foresight of their creators, women writers today are freer to speak their truths — and to see them in print — than the authors highlighted in the list following.
These timeless classics have proven foundational for contemporary feminist novels. From Jane Eyre (1847), Charlotte Brontë’s gothic romance, through Octavia Butler’s Afro-futurist Parable of the Talents (1998), the books listed here feature heroines who continue to inspire and surprise.
“Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923) is a much-anthologized short story by this New Zealand-born author considered a master of the genre. It was first published in The Garden Party and Other Stories in 1920.
Miss Brill is an elderly woman who has created her own illusory world.Some of the themes in this classic short story include loneliness, aging, and alienation. It’s considered a modernist piece and is replete with symbolism rather than plot.
Here is some supplementary information on Miss Brill: Read More→
Presented here is the full text of A Few Figs from Thistles: Poems and Sonnets by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950). A Few Figs from Thistles was her second collection, published in 1921.
As a poet, Millay is considered as a major twentieth-century figure in the genre. Wildly popular, and actually famous as a poet in her lifetime, she’s no longer as widely read and studied, though still well regarded in the field of poetry.
The poetry in this collection explored love and female sexuality, among other themes. In the poems, including the oft-quoted “First Fig,” Millay both celebrates and satirizes herself. Read More→
Silent Spring (1962) is the best-known work by Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964), noted American marine biologist and environmental trailblazer. The following selection of quotes from Silent Spring is a passionate argument for protecting the environment from manmade pesticides.
A work of nonfiction by Carson, the book is a gracefully written indictment of the pesticide industry that arose in the late 1950s. It presents a piercing look at the damage these chemicals cause to bird, bees, wildlife, and plant life. Read More→
Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was a noted American marine biologist, conservationist, and writer whose holistic view of the natural world shaped today’s environmental science. Her writing as a popular scientist educated readers about how every entity interacts with the broader web of life.
This interconnectedness influenced her research into the indiscriminate use of chemical insecticides and the resulting book, Silent Spring (1962), her best known, raised questions and awareness that contributed to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Though Rachel Carson is regarded more as a scientist and environmentalist, there’s no question that her passion for literature fueled her graceful and impassioned writings. Read More→
Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are best known for their classic novels; each was also a poet in her own right. Though Emily is acknowledged as the finest poet of the trio, Anne’s poetry is more than worthy of consideration. Here are presented 12 poems by Anne Brontë (1820 – 1849).
Anne wrote two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, before her death at age 29. Before the sisters attempted to publish their first novels, Charlotte undertook the task of putting together and finding a home for a collaborative book of their poems, hoping that it would be a stepping stone (it wasn’t, as it turned out). They assumed masculine (or at least vague) noms de plume to disguise their identities. In Charlotte’s words: Read More→
Matilda Joslyn Gage was born in 1826 in Cicero, New York, near Syracuse. The important role she played in the women’s suffrage movement has been marginalized, overshadowed by figures like Susan B. Anthony and Eliabeth Cady Stanton.
“All of the crimes which I was not guilty of rushed through my mind,” Gage wrote later, “but I failed to remember that I was a born criminal—a woman.” Her crime: registering to vote. The verdict: guilty as charged.
Angelica Shirley Carpenter has a new picture book out for grades 2 – 6: The Voice of Liberty, with illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham, published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press (2020). The book tells how three suffragists, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Lillie Devereux Blake, and Lillie’s daughter, Katherine “Katie” Devereux Blake, led a protest at the 1886 dedication of the Statue of Liberty. Read More→
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979) is perhaps the best-known work by British author Angela Carter (1940 – 1992). A novelist, short story writer, and journalist, she earned a reputation as one of Britain’s most original writers.
Her influences ranged from fairy tales, gothic fantasy, and Shakespeare to surrealism and the cinema of Godard and Fellini. Her work broke taboos and was often considered provocative.
The Bloody Chamber is a collection of re-envisioned imaginings (not, as often described, retellings) of classic European fairy tales. They range in length from very short stories to novellas, and include: Read More→