10 Writers to Read for International Women's Day
— Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor on
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’ve rounded up some of the most influential writers and picked out our favorite poem, novel, or story from each. We hope you enjoy these classic works!
1. Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935)
Our favorite work: The Yellow Wallpaper
“I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try.”
Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a psychological thriller that serves as an astute commentary on the troubling place of women in the healthcare system—one which, unfortunately, remains relevant to this day.
2. Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923)
Our favorite work: The Garden Party
“Isn't life,” she stammered, “isn't life—” But what life was she couldn't explain. No matter. He quite understood.
Mansfield’s short story “The Garden Party” is a tale that weaves together acute discussions of classism, a powerful coming-of-age story, and a poignant retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades.
3. Kate Chopin (1850–1904)
Our favorite work: Desiree’s Baby
“She disappeared among the reeds and willows that grew thick along the banks of the deep, sluggish bayou; and she did not come back again.”
Chopin’s short story “Desiree’s Baby” explores the oppressiveness of Southern society in the era of slavery, with its sinister nexus of racism, sexism, and classism.
4. Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)
Our favorite work: After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes
“This is the Hour of Lead—
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow—
First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—”
All of Dickinson’s poems delve deep into the human heart, returning with breathtaking reports of suffering, longing, and transcendence—in none is this more poignant than in “After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes.”
5. Sara Teasdale (1884–1933)
Our favorite work: There Will Come Soft Rains
“Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.”
This poem portrays the devastating aftermath of World War I, warning us of the effects of human conflict but acknowledging the ever-renewing power of nature. “There Will Come Soft Rains” eventually inspired Ray Bradbury’s 1950 short story of the same title.
6. Susan Glaspell (1876–1948)
Our favorite work: A Jury of Her Peers
“The picture of that girl, the fact that she had lived neighbor to that girl for twenty years, and had let her die for lack of life, was suddenly more than she could bear.”
Glaspell’s short story “A Jury of Her Peers” brings together three very different women and explores the different ways in which each experiences the male-dominated landscape of the United States at the turn of the 20th century.
7. Marianne Moore (1887–1972)
Our favorite work: To a Steam Roller
“You lack half wit. You crush all the particles down
into close conformity, and then walk back and forth
With her typically vivid, cerebral flair, Marianne Moore launches a subtle but scathing critique of the clumsy art critics of her day in her bold, stylish poem “To A Steam Roller.”
8. Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855)
Our favorite work: Jane Eyre
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.”
Charlotte Brönte’s classic coming-of-age novel Jane Eyre follows the ups and downs of the unshakeable Jane, a young woman who overcomes poverty, abandonment, and sexism as she finds her place in the world.
9. Mary Shelley (1797–1851)
Our favorite work: Frankenstein
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
Some consider Mary Shelley’s classic work of gothic fiction, Frankenstein, to be the first true science-fiction story. In it, Shelley grapples with the deepest questions of human nature, exploring the curiosity, anguish, and exhilaration that accompany human existence.
10. Jane Austen (1775–1816)
Our favorite work: Pride and Prejudice
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
Jane Austen’s best-known novel follows Elizabeth Bennet, a young Englishwoman, as she navigates her entrance into adulthood and the challenges of courtship. Austen’s fiction was revolutionary for its psychological depth and thoughtful female protagonists.