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UK Women in Literature

Our first British women writers to celebrate.  They will be added to but it's a start.  The old, the new and the renowned.

Doris Lessing (née Tayler; 1919 – 2013)

Doris May Lessing CH  was a British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer.  She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.


In awarding the Prize the Swedish Academy described her as "that epeeist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".  Doris Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.


An impressive and prolific author, Lessing has received acclaim for her books  including The Golden Notebook, Memoirs of a Survivor and The Summer Before the Dark.  The  Swedish Academy said the Golden Notebook was seen as "a pioneering work" that "belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th Century view of the male-female relationship".


In 2001, Lessing was awarded the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in British literature. In 2008, The Times ranked her fifth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882 –1941)

Born in London, Virginia was one of the foremost modernists writers of the twentieth century.  Virginia’s first novel Jacob’s room was published in 1922.  Her most famous books are Mrs Dalloway, The Lighthouse and The Waves which awarded her critical acclaim as one of the great Modernist writers.  A Room of One’s Own published in (1929) and Three Guineas (1938) were examinations of the difficulties women writers and intellectuals faced dealing with inequality in society, law and economic power.



"As a woman I have no country.   As a woman my country is the whole world."  —Virginia Woolf.  Portrait by GisËle Freund 1939

Charlotte Brontë (1816 – 1855)

Most noted for her novel Jane Eyre which she wrote under the pen name Currer Bell, Charlotte Brontë the eldest of the three Brontë sisters became a celebrated novelist and poet.  She had two other pen names ; Lord Charles Albert and Florian Wellesley. 


Charlotte broke new ground with Jane Eyre by being written from an intensely first-person female perspective.

Emily Brontë (1818 – 1848)

Born in Yorkshire Emily was best remembered for Wuthering Heights with its many film and TV adaptations, this classic love tragedy still touches the hearts today.  Emily Brontë  was the second of the three Brontë sisters who became celebrated novelist and poets.  Her pen name was Ellis Bell. 



“A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself.” ― Emily Brontë

“A good heart will help you to a bonny face, my lad and a bad one will turn the bonniest into something worse than ugly.” ― Emily Brontë

“I will walk where my own nature would be leading.” ― Emily Brontë

“You're hard to please: so many friends and so few cares, and can't make yourself content.” ― Emily Brontë

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Born in Stevenson, Hampshire.  Ms Austen’s novels are well loved for their intelligence, wit and social commentary of the lot of the upper middle class women of the time and their dependency on marriage to secure social standing and economic security.  Most of her Novels have become films and TV series, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudices and Emma are the most depicted in film.  Jane Austen’s novels have continuously been in print since 1833.


After a campaign about lack of representation of women on English Banknotes Ms Austen has been chosen to become the New face of the £10 note.

Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)

Daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley was  a prolific writer, novelist, biographer and travel writer.  Her other literary works were largely ignored until the 1970’s where, with the interest of feminist literary critics and scholars a resurgence of awareness  and acclaim for her work became more widespread.  

Mary Wollstonecraft: (1759-1797)

An accomplished author, philosopher and influential public figure, who helped develop British feminism.


She is best known for her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which is one of the UK’s earliest works of feminist philosophy arguing that women are not naturally inferior to men. Wollstonecraft work was influential in granting women equal rights.

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