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A Celebration of Classic Female Authors

By Megan Powell, Magali Prel, Natasha Smith and Mia Walby

 

International Women’s Day serves as a global celebration of the remarkable achievements and contributions made by women around the world throughout history. On this day, not only are advancements made in the realm of gender equality, but also, that of literary legacies left behind by classic female authors. These women, through their words, have transformed the landscape for future female writers, challenged societal norms and illuminated the depths of the female experience. This celebration serves as an exploration and appreciation of the enduring impact that female authors have had on the world, whose words continue to resonate and inspire globally today.

 

Simone Weil


Born in 1909, Simone Weil was a French philosopher and political activist. After graduating, she became a teacher but soon took a break due to poor health, devoting herself to political activism. Weil’s conviction was to truly understand the world in real-time, rather than merely theorise abstract ideas. This conviction led to multiple shifts in her life; from working in factories to volunteering for dangerous wartime missions.


Weil’s philosophy was characterised by its depth and spiritual insight; she was intrigued by the capacity to think, contemplate and act, considering through her work the nature of labour, politics and the human soul. Her ideas were often inspired by Plato, especially in her account of the political sphere; justice, politics and society, she proposed, were to be defined by the nature of humans themselves, rather than the body of politics. Her emphasis on attention, empathy and selflessness continues to inspire those interested in philosophy, theology and social justice today.


Agatha Christie


Otherwise known as the “Duchess of Death,” the “Mistress of Mystery” and the “Queen of Crime,” Agatha Christie is one of the world’s best-selling authors. In her lifetime she wrote sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections. As well as writing romance novels under the pseudonym “Mary Westmacott,” her most notable works follow the themes of mystery and crime, continuously drawing readers in with her characters such as of Poirot and Miss Marple. One of her most popular novels, And Then There Were None, begins with an invitation; ten strangers are invited to a house on a remote island, yet when they arrive their hosts are nowhere to be seen. We soon discover the crimes of each guest, and before long, murders begin to occur... what seemed an exciting outing of dinner and drinks turns into a series of tense and eery murders! Despite Christie’s death in 1976, her legacy continues to thrill readers, inspire writers and pave the way for new literary legacies.

 

Joan Didion


“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Literary luminary, Joan Didion, made this remark at the beginning of her seminal book of essays, The White Album in 1979. Most would argue she was correct; narratives may help us understand the human experience, and Didion’s stories are proof of this. Nostalgic while searingly vivid in her depiction of societal issues, Didion never flinched from mirroring the fragmentation of American society in the sixties and seventies. So insightful were Didion’s words that the truth within them prevails to this day.


Didion's sharp insights, keen observations and powerful introspection remain to be an indispensable literary voice, leaving an indelible mark on readers seeking poignant reflections on life's complexities. From Slouching Towards Bethlehem to Play It as It Lays to The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion told ample stories to help us with our comprehension of life.

 

Nella Larsen


Nella Larsen became one of the most poignant and acclaimed authors of the Harlem Renaissance. Her most notable novels include Quicksand, published in 1928 and Passing, published in1929. Originally a nurse, Larsen started volunteering at a library, a shift in her vocation that ultimately inspired a sabbatical to commence her writing career. Following depression from the death of her ex-husband, Larsen moved and ceased writing, returning to her original calling of nursing.


Her published works spoke volumes for the Harlem Renaissance and the American modernism movement that followed. Larsen, much like her counterparts at the time, wrote a raw and authentic experience that focused on themes of identity and tensions within. Despite her fleeting literary career, Larsen remains one of the most seminal figures of the Harlem Renaissance and is often described as “the mystery woman of the Harlem Renaissance.” This International Women’s Day, Larsen is no longer a mystery, but a female author to be rightfully celebrated.

 

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