-written by Diane Newland, Bookseller.
Women have been writing throughout history, expressing their thoughts, views and opinions, and in doing so, shaking up the status quo, and setting cultural and historical changes in motion.
From the earliest known female writer, Sappho, the Greek poet from the 6th century BC, a champion and role model for feminists and lesbians, (who featured in our Valentine’s Poetry selection) through to the 18th century early feminist women’s voices, to the myriad of powerful 20th century contemporary women authors, I found myself surrounded by a force field of female expression.
Virginia Woolf, in “A Room of One’s Own” argues for the necessity of a metaphorical and literal space for women’s literature in history as well as in contemporary times, and we have a couple of 1930’s editions available, as well some vintage copies of a few other titles of hers.
Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” which is considered the first science-fiction novel, so was a pioneering writer of her time, and we have several, albeit modern, copies currently in stock, and available online. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” which is seen as one of the most significant works of the early feminist movement.
We also have Edith Wharton’s “Age of Innocence,” which changed literature and history by being the first book by a woman writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1921.
Agatha Christie lurks throughout our warehouse, and pops up in Darwin, albeit fleetingly, as her books get shipped out as fast as they arrive. This is not surprising, as she is apparently the best selling novelist in history, the only works having sold more than hers being Shakespeare and the Bible, and possibly the Compleat Angler?
Jane Austen is, of course, another most widely read author of all time, coming in just behind Shakespeare too, and she changed literature with her love stories, which examined and questioned, women’s roles in society.
Ursula Le Guin also doesn’t stay on our shelves for long, with her extraordinary fantasy and science-fiction tales through which the defence of freedom courses strongly.
Another writer from the twentieth century, Doris Lessing is also extraordinarily original and her work is well worth exploring, if you have not already. We have some great vintage copies of some of her work. I read “The Golden Notebook” during my adolescence, which had a significant impact on me as a young woman. It is a powerful and interestingly constructed novel in four parts, with serious themes of political, sexual and women’s liberation. “Briefing For a Descent into Hell”, in our Vintage section in Darwin, is another Lessing must-read for me, because of the arresting title mainly, but also because it explores subjectivity, the inner mind and the tyrannies of society, all topics that my young adult sons actively discuss today.
Finally, Harriet Beecher Stowe, from the nineteenth century, is best known for her anti-slavery novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” which caused outrage when it was published. It consequently had a huge cultural impact on the development of the Civil War, and on American history. We have several beautiful copies of this book ranging from an 1894 edition from The Lily Series, priced at £78.50, A 1919 edition for £150.30, or a very reasonably priced 1924 copy for £5.30.
Of course, I have just highlighted a few well-known women authors. There are many, many more to explore and enjoy, so let’s celebrate every woman writer, whether famous, known, obscure, or aspiring.