There are many ways to observe Women’s History Month in March and at Books & Books we have naturally chosen to celebrate the brilliance of female authors, from those who wrote notable classics like Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, to women of the modern age like Zadie Smith, Gillian Flynn, Maya Angelou, Gail Honeyman and many more. These women have pushed boundaries and broken barriers in literature. Their stories connect with people of all genders and backgrounds.
However, this great celebration of women cannot be fully understood without an understanding of the history of women in literature and how these great minds came to be known. For centuries women were barred from writing as it was deemed above their intellect. Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the Gothic classic “Frankenstein,” had to publish her masterpiece under her husband’s name. Mary Anne Evans had to change her pen name to George Eliot just to get her publishers to print her novels. These examples prove how underappreciated women’s voices were in the not-so-distant past and how their achievements, now properly awarded to them through the eyes of history, are even more incredible.
Women in literature in the modern age may not have the same restrictions on name or rights, but prejudices are held, not only in which genres women can write, but also about the writing itself. Many people still hold the wholly dismissive view that female writing is not as intellectual and is overemotional — theories regularly debunked by modern authors like Margaret Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Michelle Tea (“Black Wave”), whose dystopian settings strike both an intellectual and emotional chord with their readers.
Women authors have come a long way since the days of Jane Austen, but the very custom of having a Women’s History Month — after all, no one sees the need to have a “Men’s History Month” — is a reminder of how far we still must go. Only when women’s achievements are fully recognised and appreciated throughout the year can we have equality. Not only is this true in literature, but in all aspects of life as well.
If you’d like to find out more about these amazing women and many more, pop in to Books & Books this March as we celebrate these fantastic women and their achievements in print.