Mary Wollstonecraft (April 27, 1759 – September 10, 1797) was a British author of fiction and nonfiction, philosopher, and women’s rights advocate. Though her body of work was fairly substantial, including many essays, a history of the French Revolution, and some fiction, she’s now almost exclusively known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She was the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later known as Mary Shelley), the author of Frankenstein; sadly, she died a few days after giving birth to her namesake.
Born in the Spitalfields section of London, her father, Edward John Wollstonecraft, frittered away his inherited fortune. He bullied his children and beat his wife, Elizabeth Dixon, during drunken rages. While in her teens, Mary sat guard at her mother’s door to try to protect her from her father. Read More→
Harriet Ann Jacobs (February 11, 1813 – March 7, 1897) was an African-American writer who was widely known for her brave escape from slavery, and for her role as an abolitionist, speaker, and reformer. She is alternately referred to as Harriet A. Jacobs or simply Harriet Jacobs.
Raised in Edenton, North Carolina, Harriet and her brother John were born into slavery under the principle of partus sequitur ventrem (that which is brought forth follows the womb). This meant they were born into slavery because their mother was already enslaved. However, it wasn’t until Harriet turned six that she even learned she was a slave. Read More→
Shirley Jackson (December 14, 1916 – August 8, 1965) was an American author whose works influenced a generation of genre writers who came after her. Two areas of writing put her on the literary map — wryly humorous accounts of family life, and disturbing tales of psychological terror. It might come as no surprise to those who have read her work that Jackson was fascinated with witchcraft and Satanism while growing up.
Jackson’s stories and novels have disturbed and fascinated readers and critics alike with their unabashed exploration of the dark side of human nature. Yet, there’s a sense that she hasn’t received her due — In A Jury of Her Peers, Elaine Showalter wrote, “One of the most sophisticated crafters of fiction … with work compared during her lifetime to Poe and James, she has long been neglected by most critics of American literature.”
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) combined her talents as a writer, poet, and public speaker with a deep commitment to abolition and social reform. She sustained a long and prolific publishing career at a time when it was rare for women, particularly women of color, to have a voice. She used that voice in powerful ways, and as a result, she’s been referred to as “the mother of African-American journalism.”
The 1854 collection Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) was possibly her most successful, having gone through many editions. “The Two Offers” was the first published short story by an African-American woman. And Iola Leroy (1892) was one of the first novels by a black woman to be published. Read More→