As an avid reader (and connoisseur of inappropriately timed literary puns), I often find myself submerged in iconic works written by old, white men — you know the kind — the Fitzgeralds, Hemingways, Wildes, and Joyces of the literary world. However, I feel it is crucial for young women to start reflecting on (and studying) female authors that made history by transgressing social boundaries. It is these women that have paved the way for a brighter and more progressive future for females everywhere.
1. Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own – This extended essay was based on a series of lectures given by modernist literary icon Virginia Woolf (nee. Adeline Virginia Stephen) at Cambridge University in 1928. The essay deals with women and fiction — women writing fiction, the portrayal of women in fiction, and how women are portrayed in works of fiction. The essay is a must-read for all aspiring female writers with a love for modernism and deep hostility towards the patriarchy. Wink wink.
2. Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls – This play, written in the 1980s by one of the most celebrated British playwrights of all time, is a powerful and groundbreaking example of feminist fiction. Top Girls deals with the complications between one’s domestic and work life, the sacrifices women must make to achieve personal fulfillment, and the organizing of one’s priorities.
3. Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal – This play made its Broadway debut in the 1920s, inspired by the case of convicted murderess Ruth Synder. I came across the script during the reading break and fell in love with it — if anyone out there is looking for a quick and thought-provocative read, I highly suggest giving this short play a try.
4. Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall On Your Knees – This novel takes place in the early 19/20th centuries, following a Canadian family through times of personal and economic stability. MacDonald was given the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the novel. Without saying too much about the plot, I thoroughly enjoyed its twists, turns, and impeccable characters.
5. Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party (and Other Stories) – The Garden Party, etc. is my all-time favourite short story collection by early modernist writer Katherine Mansfield. Many of the stories centre around feminism, adolescence, sexual awakening, and death — despite the collection being published in 1922, the stories still hold contemporary relevance.