Ama Ata Aidoo
(b.1942) is a
poet and playwright from Ghana. She has previously served as the Minister of
Education in her country.
Her first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, was published in 1964, and made her the
first published African female dramatist. Her novels frequently feature strong
female characters who break common societal stereotypes. In 2000 she founded
the Mbaasem Foundation, which supports African women writers.
Lisa Appignanesi (b. 1946) is a
British-Canadian novelist. She has served as the President of English PEN and
is currently Chair of the Royal Society of Literature.
Among her works are Memory and Desire and Freud’s Women, studies of Freud’s ideas
in relation to women, as well as Mad, Bad
and Sad : A History of Women and the Mind Doctors. The latter won the
2009 Award for the Public Understanding of Science from the British Medical
Judith Kerr (b. 1923) is a British writer and illustrator. She is best known for her popular children’s books, such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea or the Mog series.
Born Jewish in Germany, she was forced to flee to Britain before the World War, an experience which inspired her novel When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. She worked for the Red Cross during the war, before becoming a writer. In 2012 she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her service to children’s literature and Holocaust education.
Catherine Sinclair (1800-1864) was a Scottish writer, the author of several novels and children’s books. She also engaged in extensive charitable work in her hometown of Edinburgh.
Her first published work was Modern Accomplishments, or the March of Intellect, a study of female education, in 1836. She is credited with discovering that Sir Walter Scott was the author of the anonymous Waverley novels – her memorial in Edinburgh is loosely modeled after the famous Scott Monument.
Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) was a
prolific American author of Cuban descent. Throughout her life, she wrote
numerous novels, journals, and collections of short stories, as well as
collections of erotica.
Some of her most
famous works are the collections Delta of
Venus and Little Birds, which earned
her the critics’ appreciation as one of finest female writers of erotica. Other
well-known books include Henry and June and
Incest, both based on personal
Emily Hahn (1905-1997) was a journalist and writer,
author of 54 books and more than 200 articles and short stories. The New Yorker magazine named her ‘a
forgotten American literary treasure’.
Even though she
never practised, she obtained a degree in mining engineering from the
University of Wisconsin-Madison, the first woman to do so. She travelled
extensively through Asia and Africa, and the resulting literature helped to
open this world to the American public.
Aphra Behn (1640-1689) was an English author, and one of
the first women ever to make a living from writing. She was a well-known,
visible figure, at a time when women were mostly confined to the domestic
sphere, setting a precedent for many generations to come.
She is seen as one of the most important dramatists
of the seventeenth century, and her prose as a keystone in the development of the
English novel. Her inclusion of female sexuality and same-sex relations in her
work was revolutionary at the time.
was a Polish feminist writer and essayist. She was committed to issues of
social justice, and her novels are characterized by realism and psychological
She wrote her
first novel, Women, in 1906. Other
notable works include Boundary (1935)
and Bonds of Life (1948). During the
interwar period, she was the executive member of the Polish Academy of
Doris Lessing (1919-2013)
was a novelist and poet, considered one of the best British writers. She
received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007, becoming the oldest person to
have this honour.
She moved from England to South Africa, but was banned from
the country due to her anti-apartheid campaigning. Her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, was published in
1950, and became a classic. She used her Nobel Lecture, On Not Winning the Nobel Prize, to raise awareness of global
inequality, and to raise money for children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Mary Kingsley (1862-1900)
was an English ethnographer, explorer, and writer. Her extensive travels and
documentation of West Africa helped educate Europeans about the continent and
She decided to embark on her journey in 1892, something
considered improper for a single woman at the time. However, she travelled
through Sierra Leone, Angola, and Gabon, living with the locals and learning
about their customs. The resulting books, Travels
in West Africa and West African
Studies, were instant bestsellers, and appreciated amongst scholars.