Illustrated by George Denver

Fiction And Poetry Written By Female Authors

With International Women’s Day approaching on the 8th of March, it’s important for us all to take this time to…

With International Women’s Day approaching on the 8th of March, it’s important for us all to take this time to recognise the incredible contributions women have made across all industries and aspects of life. In this article, I want to draw attention to influential poetry and fiction written by female authors. Some of these may be familiar, but some may be new to you – so hopefully this article will reveal the great range of female authors and their works to you, and you may even find your new favourite!

Mary Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was an English novelist most famous for writing the novel Frankenstein (also known as The Modern Prometheus), which was published in 1818. Frankenstein is considered to be an excellent early example of science fiction in literature, which over time has been both widely read and been the inspiration for numerous stage and screen adaptations. She also edited the works of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and until the 1970s this was all Shelley was mainly known for (along with Frankenstein). However, more recent scholarly interest has allowed a far more overarching and effective insight into her literary achievements.

Interest has primarily focused on her novels including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), Perkin Warbeck (1830), Lodore (1835) and Falkner (1837). There have also been studies of her lesser-known works such as Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844) and her articles Dionysius Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–1846), which highlight the growing opinion that Mary Shelley lived as a political radical throughout her whole life. She is someone whose work I have read and enjoyed immensely, so I certainly recommend giving her work a read!

The Brontë Sisters


Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist, and poet, and was the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood (her sisters being Emily and Anne). After attending school at Roe Head and homeschooling her sisters she had worked as a governess, but in 1839 returned to Haworth to open a school with her sisters – unfortunately, they failed to attract pupils. This encouraged the three of them to turn back to writing, with which they had all been incredibly prolific in childhood.

Charlotte’s first novel The Professor was rejected by publishers, but her second novel Jane Eyre was successfully published in 1847 under the writerly pseudonym Currer Bell. She, along with her sisters, admitted her pseudonym in 1848 as she received great acclaim for her writing, and soon they were all celebrated in literary circles in London as their own selves. In 1848 Charlotte began work on her next novel Shirley, but when her brother Branwell and both her sisters Emily and Anne died within the following eight months, Charlotte was unable to write.

Charlotte only resumed writing as a way to deal with her grief, leading to Shirley finally being published in October of 1849. Then four years later in 1853 came Charlotte’s third novel Villette, which contains strong themes of isolation – which, given all those Charlotte had lost in her family, is understandable. In my opinion, all of Charlotte’s written works are brilliant reads, so you should definitely give them a try!


Emily Brontë was also an English novelist and poet, who is best known for her novel Wuthering Heights, published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. This was the only novel she ever penned, and it has become an indisputable classic of English literature. Emily went with Charlotte to the Héger Pensionnat in Brussels, Belgium in 1842, attending the girls’ academy run by Constantin Héger to help perfect their French and German. Unfortunately, only nine of Emily’s essays have survived from this period, but it was clear Héger was impressed with Emily’s character and talents, and once wrote the following:

“She should have been a man… her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have given way but with life.”

In 1845 Emily contributed poems with her sisters to create a volume, titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte contributed 19 poems, and Emily and Anne contributed 21 poems each. Although only two copies had initially sold of the book they weren’t discouraged. A reviewer of The Athenaeum praised Emily’s (Ellis’s) work in particular, singling out those poems as the best and said:

“Ellis possesses a fine, quaint spirit and an evident power of wing that may reach heights not here attempted.”

Emily’s Wuthering Heights was published in London in 1847, coming out as the first two volumes of a three-volume set, the third volume being her sister Anne’s novel Agnes Grey. Emily’s name was not attributed to the novel until 1850, and due to her passing away in 1848 she never was able to experience the great responses and acclaim her novel received. Wuthering Heights is truly great work, and I would seriously recommend it!


Anne Brontë, the youngest of the three surviving Brontë sisters, lived most of her life at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. When not at Haworth she went to school in Mirfield, and later she lived elsewhere when she worked as a governess. When she was first published alongside her sisters in their book of poetry in 1846 she too took a pseudonym, choosing the name Acton Bell, before she moved on to her novel writing.

Her first novel Agnes Grey came to be published in 1847 at the same time as Emily’s Wuthering Heights. Then followed her second novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, published only a year afterwards in 1848, and this book is often thought of as one of the first ever feminist novels. Anne passed away at 29 years of age, and after her death, Charlotte made edits to Agnes Grey to fix issues in the first edition but also halted the republication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Anne is perhaps not as well known as her sisters because of this, but both of her novels are nevertheless considered classics, both of which I would highly recommend!

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and writer of short stories, though she is known best for two of her published poetry collections, The Colossus and Other Poems (1960) and Ariel (1965) in addition to The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death. Furthermore, in 1981 The Collected Poems was published posthumously and ended up being awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1982. Sylvia Plath is only the fourth to ever receive this award posthumously.

When it comes to The Bell Jar, Sylvia once described her novel as “an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past”, and notably she used the novel to effectively bring attention towards the issue of women’s roles in the workplace during the period of 1950s. She was a strong believer in the ability of women to work successfully as writers and editors, combating the assumption of society suggested women were only capable of fulfilling secretarial roles. Every word of Plath’s, in both poetry and prose, always comes across with such a personal power – her works are definitely something to try out!

Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood is the pen name of an Italian neuroscience professor and writer of novels that feature the romance genre. However, what is wonderfully unique and refreshing about Hazelwood’s novels is that all her stories centre around female protagonists who successfully work in STEM fields and academia. Her debut novel The Love Hypothesis was a New York Times best-seller, and she has had further success with her second novel Love On The Brain, as well as her recently released collection of novellas titled Loathe To Love You.

I was initially drawn to Hazelwood’s work because of its intense popularity within the online literary communities of Bookstagram and Booktok, what really struck me was how effectively Hazelwood presents the struggles faced by women who work in these male-dominated STEM environments. Her works so far have been so effective in showing satisfying romantic plots, as well as displaying the complexities of the STEM industries and processes in a way that is truly fascinating (and easy to understand for readers, not in the know!). I would not hesitate to recommend all of her books, and you should also keep an eye out for Love, Theoretically which is set to be her next release!

To conclude, Mary Shelley, the Brontë sisters, Sylvia Plath and Ali Hazelwood are all vastly different writers from varying places and points in time. However, what unites them is how their literature has come to shape or is currently shaping, the ways in which literature changes and develops for readerships all across the world. Writing by women is awe-inspiring, to say the least, and I hope this article inspires all of you to read as much of it as you possibly can!

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