20 Most Powerful and Pioneering Women Authors In The Last 400 Years

A lot of women authors have made a deep impact on literary history either through their books or the characters they created. We list 20 such writers, arranged chronologically, along with their notable works, that should definitely make it to your reading bucket-list.

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Jane Austen’s works mainly focused on the social status of women and their economic security. An author of six major novels, she had brilliantly captured the transitions between 18th and 19th century that resonated with literary realism and social commentary.

Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are amongst her popular works.

Mary Shelly (1797-1851)

Popularly known as the creator of the most famous Frankenstein, Mary Shelly was also a dramatist, essayist, biographer and a travel writer. Her works were prominently influenced by historic and gothic genres.

Her other important works also include Mathilda, The Last Man, Rambles in Germany and Italy.

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Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)

Eldest of the three Brontë sisters, Charlotte’s works are considered to be classics of English literature. She was an English novelist and a poet who wrote under the pen name Currer Bell.

She was best known for her novel, Jane Eyre. She also authored Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell with her sisters Emily and Anne Brontë.

Emily Dickenson (1830-1866)

Considered one amongst America’s significant poets, Emily wrote as many as 1800 poems of which only less than a dozen were published. Her poems were unconventional and lacked titles forcing the publishers to alter them, befitting the conventional rules of poetry.

Her poems prominently featured two of the most recurring themes – death and immortality, which were also a part of frequent letters to her friends.

Toru Dutt (1856-1877)

Featured as one of the prominent women poets of India even to this day, Toru Dutt wrote in Indian and French languages. She was best known for two of her translated works – a French volume of poems into English and a collection of Sanskrit translations to English.

Her poem Our Casuarina Tree is still one of the classics in modern English literature, often taught in schools in India.

Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)

Known as the Nightingale of India, Sarojini Naidu played active roles in poetry and politics. She first wrote at the age of twelve. Apart from two of her popular collection of poems – The Golden Threshold and The Feather of the Dawn, she also wrote numerous other poems on various subjects.

She was the first woman to become the governor of an Indian state and the second woman to preside as the President of the Indian National Congress.

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Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

She is best known as the creator of two popular characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple through her ingenious collection of 66 detective novels and 14 short stories. She was also a popular playwright.

According to the Guinness World Records, she is still the best-selling novelist of all time. Her works have been adapted into numerous plays, television and radio shows and video games.

Amrita Pritam (1919-2005)

One of the prominent faces during 20th century, Amrita Pritam wrote in Punjabi and Hindi. She had written over 100 books that included collection of poems, fictions, biographies and essays.

Her works became the voice of Punjabi women and her experiences through words were mainly influenced by the incidents during the partition. Pinjar remains of her prominent works even to this day which was made into a movie in 2003.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Apart from being a poet, Maya was a noted memoirist and civil rights activist. She has written various autobiographies, essays, poetry and plays with themes based on racism, identity, family and travel.

The first of the seven autobiographies, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings won her critical acclaim and international recognition. She is the recipient of over 50 honorary degrees.

Shashi Deshpande(1938)

An award-winning Indian novelist, Shashi Deshpande hails from Karnataka. A degree holder in Economics and Law, she pursued her career in Journalism.

She is the recipient of the prestigious Sahitya Academy award for her first novel, The Dark Holds No Terror. She has also written numerous children’s books, short stories, novels and essays.

About the author

Madhu Bairy

I am a resident of Bangalore and a native of Kundapur. A self-confessed book worm, I always found any activity that involved reading and writing interesting apart from my academics. Reading is something that came quite naturally since my schooling days and that continued to grow over the years.
Writing to me is not a hobby, but something that I pursue passionately. A graduate in Textile Technology and a designer by profession, I find writing as an effective medium to convey my thoughts and opinions on anything and everything.

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