300 years ago,  novels were a 'fickle' hobby written by, and for women. Popular Gothic novels were made fun of by pretty much everyone; from politicians to Jane Austen, who explored the genre satirically in the timelessly witty 'Northanger Abbey', even incorporating this gender divide into one of the novel's antagonists, John Thorpe, who remarks on Catherine's love for reading "Udolpho? Lord! No, I never read novels". Somewhere along the way, however, men decided that there was some merit in the art of literature, and female authors have been sidelined, ignored, and forgotten oftentimes since.

Women still buy two-thirds of novels, but the picture of this gender divide became ever clearer when Vida, an American organisation that focuses on women in the arts, published a report that proved pretty much every major international publication heavily focused on male writers; from review coverage on books to the people they commission to write about them.

It shouldn't come as much as a surprise, then, that most 'top 100' literature lists are also completely male dominated. Lists such as '100 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime', even from the more prestigious publications, feature very few books by women, and even female-focused articles tend to feature several books by one woman, or mistakenly list male authors like Evelyn Waugh, who was placed 97th on a list of most-read female authors just this year by TIME magazine.

So, inspired by Jean at Jean's Thoughts, who wrote a post bringing this issue to attention last month (link here) - here is my own list of 100 female authors that everyone should read. It features women from around the globe; from the first novel ever written, to books that were self-published just last year. These are women who I see as having a substantial influence on, not just writing, but culture and the world around us. They have written novels, non-fiction, short stories, comic books and poetry collections. I'll be ticking them off as I go along too.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. How many of these authors have you read? Who is your favourite female author? What do their books mean to you? Have I missed anyone out?

  1. Amanda Lee Koe  
  2. Antonia White
  3. Agatha Christie
  4. Ali Smith
  5. Alison Bechdel
  6. Alice Walker 
  7. Amy Tan
  8. Angela Carter  
  9. Anita Diamant
  10. Anita Loos
  11. Anne Bronte
  12. Anne Radcliffe
  13. Anne Sexton
  14. Arundhati Roy
  15. A.S. Byatt
  16. Audre Lorde
  17. Azar Nafisi
  18. Banana Yoshimoto
  19. Barbara Kingsolver
  20. Bell Hooks
  21. Betty Smith
  22. Caitlin Moran
  23. Charlotte Bronte
  24. Charlotte Perkins Gilman  
  25. Cheryl Strayed
  26. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche  
  27. Claudia Rankine
  28. Clarice Lispector
  29. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  30. Colette  
  31. Daphne Du Maurier  
  32. Diana Wynne Jones
  33. Dodie Smith
  34. Donna Tartt
  35. Edith Wharton
  36. Eimear McBride
  37. Emily Bronte  
  38. Emily Dickinson  
  39. Elizabeth Bowen
  40. Elizabeth Gaskell
  41. Eowyn Ivey
  42. Erica Jong
  43. Flannery O’Connor
  44. Frances Hodgson Burnett 
  45. George Eliot
  46. Harper Lee  
  47. Helen Oyeyemi
  48. Hilary Mantel
  49. Isabel Allende
  50. Jane Austen  
  51. Jaqueline Susann
  52. Jean Rhys  
  53. Jeanette Walls
  54. Jeanette Winterson
  55. Joan Didion
  56. Joyce Carol Oates
  57. Julia Alvarez
  58. Kate Chopin  
  59. Laura Bates  
  60. Laura Esquivel
  61. Lisa See
  62. Louisa May Alcott
  63. Louise O’Neill
  64. Lucy Maud Montgomery  
  65. Madeleine L’Engle
  66. Malala Yousafzai
  67. Marilynne Robinson
  68. Marina Keegan  
  69. Margaret Atwood  
  70. Margaret Mitchell  
  71. Malorie Blackman
  72. Marjane Satrapi  
  73. Mary Shelley  
  74. Mary Wollstonecraft
  75. Maya Angelou
  76. Murasaki Shikibu
  77. Muriel Spark
  78. Naomi Wolf
  79. Nora Ephron
  80. Octavia E. Butler
  81. Rebecca Solnit
  82. Rebecca West
  83. Robin Hobb
  84. Roxane Gay
  85. Rupi Kaur  
  86. Sandra Cisneros
  87. Seonmi Hwang
  88. Shirley Conran
  89. Shirley Jackson  
  90. Simone De Beauvoir
  91. Susan Hill
  92. Susan Sontag
  93. Stella Gibbons
  94. Sylvia Plath  
  95. Toni Morrison
  96. Ursula K. Le Guin
  97. Virginia Woolf
  98. Willa Cather
  99. Zadie Smith
  100. Zora Neale Hurston

100 Female Authors Everyone Should Read

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That women are remarkably underrepresented in almost every sector of life is a sobering fact yet to be addressed in any country across the world. Film, television, banking, politics; the push against poor gender representation has been both public and provocative. You probably know about these issues, and you'll also probably know that women are grossly underrepresented in the literary world, too.

From George Eliot in the 19th century to JK Rowling in the 1990s, women have resorted to masculinising their names in order to be taken seriously by critics before, and since the offset of printing began. Female authors review less, are reviewed less, and find it harder to get published. These figures are even more staggeringly disheartening for women of colour.

Still, there are some aspects of gender disparity that don't receive nearly as much attention as they deserve. The business of translating novels from around the world is growing year by year, yet women represent less than 30% of novels, short stories and poems translated into English. This is where 'Women in Translation Month' comes in.

Kicked off by Blogger Meytal Radzinski in 2014, and celebrated annually every August, #WITmonth honours female authors from all across the globe by encouraging readers to support women in translation. Wondering what you can do to help? Get yourself over to your local bookstore, and make the next novel you walk out with one by a translated woman. Stuck for ideas? Here are seven worldly female authors that should be on every book lover's TBR list.

1. The Tale of Genji

Chances are, if you were to ask the general population when the first modern novel was written, and by whom, the vast majority would be able to recall a certain iconic book by Spanish author Miguel De Cervantes, published in 1605. They would be around 600 years and 6,000 miles away from the right answer.

Outdating Don Quixote by a large number of centuries was Hikaru Genji, the son of an ancient Japanese Emperor and the invention of Japanese Lady-in-Waiting, Murasaki Shikibu. Despite the world's first ever novel being written by a Japanese woman, today female authors from Japan represent just 28% of the country's translations.

2. The House of the Spirits

This debut novel from the now-prolific author Isabel Allende, Chile, was an instant best seller in most Spanish-speaking countries, and remains a classic to this day, having been translated into over 37 different languages. The novel began as a letter to Allende's dying grandfather, and ended as an epic story of the Trueba family, spanning four generations. If you liked Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Huraki Murakami or Toni Morrisson, make this the next novel on your TBR list.

It has also been adapted into a film, but rather disappointingly replaced the roles of Allende's very much  Latin- American characters with some very white actors.  Skip the rather lacking Meryl Streep interpretation, and go straight to reading the book instead.

3. Gigi & the Cat 

A hallmark of Parisian culture, Colette is one of France's best known authors, yet women represent just 27% of the French literature translated into English.

Here is the review I left on Goodreads; although it is not so favourable, the book is well-loved by many across the world and shouldn't be disregarded by any means.

"I wasn't sure what to think of this one, and found myself pretty much just racing to finish so I could move on to my next book. The language was beautiful, but reviews of Colette's work maintain that "her books offer a manual on how to live fearlessly and joyfully" - perhaps I missed the point, but I didn't see much of that here. The characters were hard to relate to, the internal dialogue and people seemed unnatural and too constructed, with very little reason to sympathise or care for them. "The Cat" was the most enjoyable story, having a little more tension and energy to it, but I still found little to enjoy about it and instead found myself itching to finish it. Perhaps it's a little too out of my time and culture, but I won't be rushing to pick up another book by Colette anytime soon."

4. Clarice Lispector

Despite being hailed as one of the most influential and innovative short-story writers of the 20th century, the complete collection of her works was only just published fully for the first time, in English less than one year ago when it was picked up under the 'Penguin Modern Classics' collection.

Born in Ukraine, raised in Brazil, Lispector herself is one of literature's most fascinating women. She has had several books written about her, and her works are routinely mentioned in Brazillian pop culture. Although Lispector passed away prematurely aged just 56, after suffering a bad accident some years before, the complete anthology of her works contrains no less than 85 stories and has recieved favourable reviews from just about everyone; including the New York Times and Vogue. Compared to Nabakov and James Joyce, Clarice Lispector is one of the most underrated genuises of modern literature.

5. Persepolis 

This autobiographical graphic novel takes us through Marjane Satrapi's childhood in Iran and Austria, during and after the Islamic revolution. It is beautifully told, beautifully illustrated and one of the most influential graphic novels in the world. Originally printed in French, it has since been translated into over 24 different languages. It touches on religion, politics, culture, and western imperialism, with a strong but incredibly astute and relevant message.

This is the review I left on Goodreads;

"I finished this in less than 24 hours. I just couldn't put it down. Marjane is quite a divisive voice, but that's part of what makes the book so commanding. It's emotionally powerful but also an incredible insight into the recent history of Iran from a very personal perspective. Highly recommended."

6. Woman at Point Zero 

Women at Point Zero is a novel by Egyptian author Nawal Al Saadawi, inspired by her encounter with a woman in Qanatir Prison. It tackles some heavy subjects; FGM, arranged marriages, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation. Although bleak, it is essentially a novel about choice, and about hope.

The novel is considered by critics feminist classic, and the issues it discusses, whilst shocking, are struggles still faced by many women all across the globe. Despite this, it has often been underrated in literary canons - just as many books by non-white and non-western women are. Nawal Al Saadawi is a doctor, and a female-rights activist who has spent time in prison for her radical and 'outspoken' opinions.

7. Ministry of Moral Panic 

I received this book completely by chance, all the way from Singapore and sent by an anonymous angel through a round of #SaveTheCulture book exchanges on Facebook. Amanda Lee Koe is an incredibly talented writer, and one of the most promising young authors in the world.

This is the review I left on Goodreads;

"This is one of the best books I've ever read. Amanda Lee Koe writes exquisitely about various themes of modern life, it is full of emotion, depth and it is un-put-downable. This novel also explores life in Singapore and across Asia, whilst completely transgressing any cultural barriers. Very little is lost in translation. These stories are rebellious, full of heart, and almost omniscient in their wiseness. They explore the flawed emotions and lives of characters that you learn to care and mourn for in rarely more than ten pages, from experiences and points of view very little tend to look for. There is nothing stereotypical, girly or cliched about them. It is a truly modern book. If you ever have the chance to read this collection of short stories, don't pass it up"

So what else can you do for Women in Translation Month? Here are some suggestions; 

  • Read a book by a woman in translation
  • Read only books by women in translation
  • Buy a book by a woman in translation
  • Borrow a book from the library by a woman in translation
  • Read books by women in translation from countries beyond Europe. 
  • Tell friends, family and anyone who will listen exactly what #WITmonth is, and why we need it
  • Tweet, Facebook and Instagram about it. Use the hashtag!
  • Write a post about #WITmonth to raise awareness
  • Or, share this/any other post about #WITmonth to raise awareness
Meytal Radzinski and the team behind this awesome celebration have also put together an incredibly helpful and extensive list of books by women in translation from all around the globe. There is a link to it right -> here <- 

Had you ever heard about Women in Translation Month before? Are you going to participate? Do you have a favourite translated book by a woman? Leave your suggestion in the comment below, i'm always looking for news books to add to my wishlist! 

Women In Translation Month: August Book Challenge

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One of my favourite books as a child was a bite-sized collection of Hans Christian Andersen's enchanting fairy tales. His wonderful storytelling has stayed with me so fervently that I was only recently gifted the most beautiful folio edition of my best-loved stories, yet I still can't throw the original, and now well-worn, copy away. His tales are still captivating children today- whether it's through his books or the charming Disney films based on them. So what better place to visit than the magical city where Andersen spent most of his life?

Supposedly the happiest country in the world, how can you not be happy in Denmark too? It might be expensive, and it might not be the first place on everyone's bucket list, but there are hundreds of reasons to jet off to Copenhagen for a weekend. It's full of beautiful people, beautiful food (the world's best restaurant resides there) and has a wonderful education system, so almost 80% of Danes speak English. The city is small enough to cover in a short amount of time, one of the most bicycle friendly cities you'll ever see and full of wonderful designs and ridiculous amounts of vibrant colour.

It's clean, it's friendly, and it's absolutely gorgeous. Have you booked your ticket yet? If you're on your way, or even if you're just dreaming of being in Copenhagen, these are three things you just simply have to add to your agenda.


It might not have the best weather in the world, but Copenhagen is a truly enchanting city to traverse on foot. I don't think you'll find any other urban hub in the world so easy and smooth to adventure around. However, if you're completely new to a city, it's pretty hard to know where all of those magical secret spots are. Your heroes are the utterly ingenious 'Free Walking Tours' that run several times a day all year round. And, yes, really, they are free.

Your guide might be a native Dane, a globe trotter or a tourist who extended their holiday...for a few years. Either way, they'll all be bubbly, they'll all be funny, and they'll all have the most amazing knowledge of the city. Guaranteed. Our first tour was guided by a wonderful Danish woman who taught us a few useful words and warned us to stay away from Vikings; or, rather, people on bikes.

We saw The Little Mermaid, walked past the former Prime Minister, watched the changing of the Guards as they walked past our coffee stop and learned a lot about the rich history of Copenhagen. From the few remains of the medieval city to exciting tales of World War Two espionage and bravery, it was nothing short of fascinating. We saw castles, palaces and walked down the ridiculously long 'Stroget' - a street designed for shopping haven.

It wasn't all history and tourist spots, you get an invaluable insight into the culture of an incredibly interesting community. You'll experience the infamous Hygge and see the most amazing architecture. From spiralled roof tops that could be straight out of one of Andersen's fairy tales, to the houseboats and colourful buildings on Nyhavn, and the wonky houses across the man-made island of Christianhavn, on the way to Freetown Christiania.

Christiania is in itself worth its own paragraph. A 'hippie' commune established in the 1970s. It's most infamous for its anarchist laws, and open selling of cannabis in the streets. Though hard drugs are strictly banned, there is a long waiting list to live in the town where rent is free, violence and guns are banned and is seen by many as a successful social experiment. Arts and creativity are rich in the area; it's full of complex graffitti and murals. Practices such as meditation and yoga have always been incredibly popular with residents too, and despite various clashes with Danish governments, it remains one of Copenhagen's most popular tourist attractions, hosting an annual community Christmas dinner for the whole of Copenhagen, and for which even the Royal family donates food. If you ever get the chance to go, now is the time to be curious. Struggling to raise the money to buy the island, the community is facing emminent eviction.


Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest theme parks in the world, and by far one the most magical. Opened in 1843, it was pitched to the Danish King by Georg Carstensen, who told him that 'when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think of politics'. Many of Hans Christian Lumbye's - or rather, the 'Strauss of the North's'- tunes were inspired by the early days of this enchanting amusement park. Although it is constantly evolving, it's never lost that original charm and has none of the tackiness of British fairgrounds.

Tivoli is more even more beautiful than you might be imagining, and it inspired the imagination of one very important man in particularly; Walt Disney. His disneyland resorts are said to be modelled on the Copenhagen original and his hopes and dreams about them often echo quotes traced back to Carstensen himself.

The first ride we went on together was a ferris wheel built during the Second World War. There is something for every age group there. From the 1920s bumper cars we queued up at least three times for, to the surprisingly exciting galley ships from the 1930s, the wooden roller coaster built in 1914 (making it one of the oldest in the world), to the fun house and magical Hans Christian Andersen ride I was quite happily made to repeat over five times by the demands of my little sister, who was equally enthralled. Our last ride was the 1920s carousel.

Perhaps the most magical, though, were the dragon boats that were built in 1936. On a beautiful lake overlooking the Gardens, we climbed in when it was pitch black, and pedalled the boats around the water, lit up by the hundreds of fairy lights on the trees and lanterns hanging from sparkling Chinese buildings. Each section is seemingly inspired by a different culture- from the Far East, to Russia, and looks astoundingly gorgeous. If you have the choice, make sure you're there with enough time during night fall. Tivoli doesn't close until 11pm, and looks one hundred times more stunning in the dark.

Don't forget to save some money and treat your inner-kid to the most exciting food you've ever seen at a tourist attraction. From giant candy floss sticks to scrumptious hot dogs, or the large selection of commercial and themed restaurants, there's all the food you could ever possibly want to eat.


Last, but not least, is a rather broad range of the ever changing, but always exciting events and stalls you'll find everywhere in Copenhagen. The city is well cared for all year round, and it shows. You can find something round every corner that is so deliciously tempting you just can't help but stop, from mouth watering food to creative projects hidden around the roads.

If you have a chance to eat anywhere, assuming you can't shell out a few hundred pounds to dine at Noma, try the delectable food market- Torvehallerne. A permanent fixture full of different stalls, the market is an explosion of excitement and always buzzing with atmosphere. Ditch your usual Danish pastry from Greggs and try the Brunsvigers from Laura's Bakery, or dare to try the classic Danish Smorrebrod. Elsewhere in the city, don't miss out on the beautiful coffee and inviting Hot Dog stands. They're not your usual sausage in a bun. If you can, catch the stand outside the Round Tower; it's rumoured to serve the best vegetarian hot dogs, and veggie food is hard to come by in Denmark's capital.

Be on your look out for captivating art around the city. We, and many others, had fun playing around the Happy Wall, pictured third from the left below. Like the Wall, most of the tube's scaffolding was obscured by various creative projects. Other events throughout the year have included pop up hammocks for residents to rest their weary feet, jazz festivals, architecture and design days and Aladdin's Cave markets.

Finally, as you walk around, keep your keenest eye searching for some of the most beautiful and mesmerising statues and monuments in the world. From the grand fixtures of long gone Kings, to friendly benches, hidden mermaids and the Agnete and her Seven Sons; a well kept secret hidden in the canal. If you look closely enough into the clear blue water, you might just catch a glimpse of seven mermen and their father, arms outstretched, begging for their mother to return home.

Three Things You Have To See In Copenhagen

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 is for Ada

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and his mathematics loving wife, Annabella Milbanke who later became known as the 'Enchantress of Numbers'. Fearing that she would develop her father's tempestuous, poetic tendencies, Ada was brought up by her mother under a strictly mathematical and scientific regime. As a child, she was fascinated by machines, and built her own, fuelled by the new knowledge of the Industrial Revolution. She died at the young age of 36, but her published article on a dreamt up 'Analytical Engine' detailed one of the first ever computer programmes and inspired Alan Turing's work on the first ever modern computer during the Second World War, theorising the process known as 'looping' today. The U.S. Department of Defence even named a newly developed computer language after Ada in the 1980s.

 is for Benazir

Benazir Bhutto became the first ever female head of an Islamic government when she was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988. She married a wealthy businessman when she was young, but refused to let him influence her character. She was a vocal opponent of gender-selective abortions and fought to create a country where the birth of a girl would be just as welcome as the birth of a boy. One of her main policies was ensuring the empowerment of women, which she defined as the right to education, to have choices in life, to be independent, to have a career, to participate in business and rise to the highest levels in politics. She was nicknamed the 'Iron Lady' and re-elected in 1993. However, she was forced to flee to Dubai years later on false corruption charges, but when these were dropped in 2007, she was assassinated upon her return to Pakistan.

 is for Claudette

Claudette Colvin was a pioneer of the African-American Civil Rights movement who dreamt of being President one day. 9 months before Rosa Parks resisted bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, 15 year old Claudette had done the very same, and became the first person ever arrested for doing so. She was also one of the five plaintiffs used by Civil Rights lawyers in the federal court case that finally ended bus segregation in Alabama. However, when it was revealed she had become pregnant, young and unmarried, the NAACP decided not to publicise her brave acts of defiance, instead deciding to wait for someone less controversial to carry it out. She was branded as a troublemaker by the community, and forced to drop out of college. She moved to New York with her newborn son and older sister to become a nurse.

 is for Daphne

Daphne Du Maurier was an English author whose books became popular in the 1930s and 1940s. They often addressed issues of female identity and their complicated relationship with men. Although often set in bygone eras, the characters in her novels seem to reflect her own personal struggles. A mistress of suspense in her writing, Du Maurier was depicted as frosty and cold in real life, a recluse who refused to give public interviews. Her most famous novel, Rebecca, she called a 'study in jealousy' and it's been theorised that both female characters represent the different sides of herself. She struggled with the confines of her own traditional marriage, and settled in Cornwall, where she practised her love for sailing. She was a tomboy, and despite infidelities, and rumoured affairs with other women, she remained a family woman throughout the rest of her life.

 is for Eva

Eva Peron was one of the most influential women in Argentinian history. Still admired by many, the first ever female President of the country claimed that women of her generation owed a debt to Eva for her example of passion.  She met Juan Peron, who would later become President, in the 1940s, and they married soon after. He allowed her to sit in on intimate political meetings, and observe as much information as possible. She was most loved for her charitable works, setting up her own foundation after being outcast by others for her impoverished background. Her charity secured millions of dollars, and gave jobs to tens of thousands of people. She was rumoured to have worked 20 hours everyday with the organisation, many of which were set aside meet with the sick and poor. She was also incredibly influential in securing women's right to vote and founded country's the first female political party.

 is for Frida

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist, who is perhaps most well-known for her self-portraits. Frida's art is particularly loved by those of indigenous backgrounds and feminists for it's obvious influences of Amerindian culture and the female experience. She originally began studying medicine, but had to abandon this after a serious bus accident. Her poor health meant that she was often isolated from others, but she began communicating with artist Diego Rivera, asking for advice. She would later marry him and describe his paintings as "okay for a boy". Their marriage was turbulent, both had tempers and numerous affairs with both men and women; Kahlo had relationships with some of the most influential people of the time, including Josephine Baker and Leon Trotsky, who lived with the couple during his exile.

 is for Gloria

Gloria Steinem is a journalist and activist, who became a spokeswoman for the American feminist movement in the 1960s and 70s after publishing an article "After Black Power, Women's Liberation". After having an abortion in London aged just 22, Gloria became a representative of the movement for reproductive freedom, co-founding the feminist magazine Ms. in 1972. She also helped found the National Women's Political Caucus and encouraged the resurrection of Wonder-Woman, which resulted in the restoration of the comic-book character's powers, and costume. She was also an activist for many other issues, being a stark opponent of the Gulf War, and was arrested for protesting South African apartheid in 1984. In the 1970s, she voiced support of many issues that are still being discussed today, such as same-sex marriage, transsexual rights and government action against FGM and circumcision.

 is for Hedy

Hedy Lamarr began her career as an German/ Austrian actress, but fled to Paris, and later Hollywood, after appearing in a controversial sexual scene that depicted the female orgasm in 1933, and to escape her husband, a munitions manufacturer who worked for the Nazis. Her career as an inventor began long before the war; she is credited with creating an improved traffic stop-light and a less than successful tablet intended to make a carbonated drink when dropped into water. She is best known, however, for her wartime co-creation of a spread-spectrum and frequency-hopping system which would later be used, with much success, to control torpedoes. This technology would be more recently used in Wi-Fi, CDMA, and Bluetooth technology. Married six times before her death, aged 86, Lamarr later abandoned her Hollywood life to focus on her family and passion for science.

 is for Indira

Indira Gandhi was the second longest serving Prime Minister of India, and the only woman to hold the office. Her father had been the first Prime Minister of Independent India, and she had served, unofficially, as his personal assistant, and later as his Chief of Staff and President of the Congress. She was elected twice, for 1966 and until her assassination in 1984. She enshrined equal pay into the Indian constitution. She was known for her ruthlessness and unprecedented commitment to the centralisation of power. After a series of violent acts against some Pakistani people in the 1970s, Indira opened India's doors to them and led the 'Green Revolution' that addressed chronic food shortages. She was assassinated by one of her most trusted bodyguards in retaliation for her brutality during the Sikh separatist movement. In a 2001 poll, she was voted as India's greatest Prime Minister.

 is for Jane

Jane Addams was a philanthropist, women's rights and anti-war activist  who also co-founded one of the first settlements -Chicago's Hull House- for European Immigrants in the United States. Known well in her time as a social reformer, pacifist and feminist, Addams served as the first female President of both the National Conference of Social Work and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, established the National Federation of settlements, and was a co-winner of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize. She was also deeply committed to education, serving on Chicago's Board of Education and chairing it's school management committee. As a peace activist, she travelled all around the globe, attending conferences at The Hague during WW1 before her Nobel Peace Prize win.

 is for Katharine

Katharine Hepburn was one of the 20th Century's first feminist pop culture icons. Much more comfortable in slacks and trouser suits than the fashionable dresses of the time, she became a symbol of refusing to conform. One story that allegedly took place when her studio attempted to force her to wear skirts paints Hepburn as parading around in her underwear until they gave her back her usual uniform. She often refused to wear make-up, too. Known for her beauty, strength and wit, her strong personality was often questioned by those at the time, so Hepburn often avoided media attention. She attended one of the Seven Sister's Colleges and was raised under a fairly feminist upbringing before moving to Hollywood, where she acted in various films with feminist themes, such as Adam's Rib and Little Women.

 is for Laverne

Another award-winning actress, Laverne Cox was the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the acting category, as well as the first to produce and appear on her own show. She is best known for her role in Orange Is The New Black, a TV show about a women's prison, but is also an incredibly influential LGBT activist, often speaking and writing about transgender experiences and rights. Laverne knew she was transgender since elementary school, but by 6th grade she felt so ashamed that she tried to end her life. Since then, her main aim has been challenging traditional gender expectations. After an interview with Katie Couric, in which Cox highlighted the discrimination against trans people, Laverne became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine.

 is for Malala

Just five years before she became the youngest winner of, and first Pakistani to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai began her rise to prominence by publishing an anonymous diary about life under the Taliban rule in North-West Pakistan. Her psuedonymn, Gul Makai, was derived from the heroine of an old local folk tale. For speaking out, and refusing to abandon her education, she was shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012, but survived, and recovered in the UK where she resumed school. Since then, she has written a best selling book and set up a charity committed to providing girls around the world with proper education, even confronting Western politicians personally and trying to convince them into action. Malala has also had a documentary filmed about her life, won the International Children's Peace Prize and the National Peace Award from Pakistan.

 is for Nellie

Nellie Bly was a Pennsylvania journalist who began writing for the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1885. Two years later, she moved to New York City to work with the New York World, where she found her big break. Posing as a mental patient, she led an expose on Blackwell Island, revealing the appalling way inmates were treated. She lived on the island for 10 days, where she was surprised at how easy it was to convince doctors that you were crazy. The report shed light on physical abuse, poor health conditions and neglect, and prompted a large scale investigation into the institution. Three years later she was sent on a 72 day trip around the world. In the start of her journalistic career, she constantly provided fiery responses to the sexist assumptions of her male counterparts. Many of her articles focused on the negative consequences of sexist ideologies, but it was for her investigative reporting that she would become renowned.

 is for Oprah

Whilst most people have heard the name 'Oprah Winfrey', not nearly enough know why she is so amazing. Born in Mississippi, she had a troubled childhood and was sexually abused by male relatives and friends of her mother. At 18, she moved to Nashville to live with her father as soon as she could and enrolled in University. 5 years later, she began hosting her own TV show 'People Are Talking' which reached 100,000 more viewers than her male counterparts. She gained national notoriety after starring in Spielberg's adaption of Alice Walker's novel 'The Colour Purple'. A year later she debuted the Oprah Winfrey Show, reaching an audience of 10 million on 120 different channels. Out of the $125 million that the show grossed in its first year, she received $30 million, but then took control of the show herself. She veered away from tabloid topics, and pushed many new authors into the light with her Book Club segment. She is also a vehement activist, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 is for Pearl

Pearl S. Buck was a prolific author, civil rights activist, Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Born in West Virginia, she published her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, in 1930. It was her next novel that earned her a Pulitzer Prize, and a few years later she would become the first female American Nobel  Laureate. Her parents were committed to missionary work in China, and didn't flee until after the Boxer Rebellion. After its culmination, she attended boarding school in Shanghai instead of the usual village they stayed in. A few years later, she moved back to America to study Philosophy, where she performed so well that she was offered a role as Professor. Most of her writing was set in China and explored Chinese culture. Buck was an avid humanitarian until her death, often working to protect Asian Americans from racism and improve their living conditions under the 'Pearl. S. Buck Foundation', whilst also setting up the adoption agency 'Welcome House'.

 is for Queen Bessie

Bessie Coleman was an American aviator, and the first female pilot of African-American descent, as well as the first to hold an international pilot license. Born in Texas to a sharecropping family with thirteen other children, Bessie had to walk four miles everyday to attend her segregated, one-room school. She loved to read and was mathematically gifted. Despite this, she would have to leave for weeks at a time in order to help her family during the cotton harvest. When her father, who was of Cherokee origin, left the family in 1901, Bessie also decided to pack up and enrol in Agricultural university but was forced to drop out because she didn't have enough funding. Aged 23, she moved to Chicago instead, where she heard stories of WWI pilots, but found it impossible to find someone who would train her. A local newspaper funded her to study abroad in France. She spent most of her career performing at impressive airshows, and died in an aeroplane accident aged 34.

 is for Ruth

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the second woman to be appointed as a United States Supreme Court Justice, and has been an advocate and protector of women's rights all throughout her career. Ruth's mother was an incredible influence in her life, she was especially touched by her constant selflessness and after her death, Ruth went on to study at Cornell and Harvard, whilst balancing the role of becoming a mother herself. Out of the 500 law students in her class, she was one of only eight women. She became Columbia Law School's first female, tenured professor and served as the director of the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. She was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton where she favours equal rights for women, workers and the separation of church and state. One of her most notable dissents was in the Bush Vs. Gore case where she omitted the usual word 'respectfully' from her statement.

 is for Shirin

Shirin Ebadi was the 2003 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and Iranian lawyer and women's rights activist.  Born into a normal Muslim family, they decided to move to the Capital city, Tehran, when she was just one years old. It was here that she was educated and trained as a lawyer. She began serving as a judge whilst studying for her PHD in the late 1960s. 6 years later, she became the first woman in the history of Iran to be appointed President of the bench in the Tehran City Court. However, she was forced to resign four years later when women were banned from serving in law and was unable to practise again until 1992. During this time, she taught human rights courses at the city's university, focusing particularly on women and children. Some of her most highly publicised cases include representing the mother of a girl who was raped and killed under her father's custody, families of serial-murder victims, and the mother of a murdered photo-journalist.

 is for Tegla

Tegla Loroupe is a Kenyan athlete, long distance runner and an activist for women's rights. She holds the world record for three different marathons, as well as the world champion for the half-marathon. She has won marathons in cities like London, Boston, Berlin and Hong Kong and was the first African woman to win the New York marathon. Born into the Pokot tribe, from a polygamous father, she spent her childhood tending to cattle and looking after her siblings. She became the United Nations ambassador for Sport in 2006, and also represents UNICEF and International Association of Athletics Federations. That year she also travelled with George Clooney, on behalf of Oxfam to condemn the violence in Darfur. She has sponsored peace marathons in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan to battle the constant warfare. Six different tribes competed with over 2,000 warriors.

 is for Ursula

Ursula K. Le Guin is a children's books author behind the Earthsea series. Although she also writes poetry and essays, most of her writing falls within the fantasy and science fiction genres which often explore issues of politics, gender, religion and sexuality. She began receiving nationwide recognition after her novel 'The Left Hand of Darkness' was published in 1970, and coupled with her next novel, made her the first author to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel, twice for the two same books. Along with several other authors, she co-founded the Oregon Institute of Literary Arts but resigned from the Author's Guild in 2009 in protest over their dealings with google to begin digitising books. She has won innumerable awards for her work, such as the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, awards from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

 is Virginia

Virginia Apgar was a pioneer in the fields of anaesthesiology and teratology who also contributed considerably to neonatology. Perhaps her best known contribution to science is the Apgar Score, which quickly assesses the health of newborn babies immediately after birth to determine if they need medical attention. In New York, she studied zoology, physiology and chemistry during the early 1930s. When discouraged from pursuing a career in surgery by Allen Whipple, the chairman of surgery at her university, she aptly ignored his advice and became a certified anaesthesiologist in 1937. In 1949, she became the first ever woman to become a full professor at CUCPS. Whilst there she began doing research at the Sloane Hospital for Women, and her invention of the Apgar test saved millions of young lives. She was an outspoken advocate for vaccination, spoke to hundreds of audiences nationwide and claimed that women were liberated "the moment they leave the womb".

 is for Wangari

Wangari Maathi grew up in a small village, her father was a tenant farmer at a time when Kenya was still a British Colony. Against usual expectations at the time, Wangari's family decided to send her to school when she was eight years old. Little did they know that, a few years later, she would become the first ever woman to earn a doctorate in both East and Central Africa. She received a scholarship to study in America, where she was inspired the anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements popular at the time. She later became the first woman to chair a University department in the country. One of her biggest worries was about the environment and the stark devastation of Kenyan forests, prompting her to launch the Green Belt Movement that helped reforest the country and gave thousands of Kenyan women jobs and income. She was beaten and arrested several times for her political views, but was elected to Parliament in 2002, winning the Nobel Peace Prize just a year later.

 is for Xing

Jin Xing is one of the first and most recognisable transgender women in China. A ballerina, modern dancer, choreographer, actress and owner of a Shanghai dance company, Jin became one of China's most fascinating celebrities. At 43 years old, she holds an impressive career. Once a Chinese Army Officer, she is now one of TV's most in-demand stars. Despite living in such a conservative country, Jin has been very open about her gender-reassignment surgery and has worked with some of China's most important LGBT activists. Her former military training, she claims, has worked to her advantage, as she manages to balance an incredibly busy career, activism, and a family life with three small children. She's also known as a tough talk-show host, calling out a sexist presenter who berated his wife for speaking out against his violence during their marriage.

 is for Yoani

Yoani Sanchez is a Cuban blogger who has brought international attention to life under its current government. She grew up in a very affluent Cuba, when they still had large aid arriving from the Soviet Union and her portrayal of life today is very critical. The fall of the Soviet Union coincided with her University education, creating a very Public education system that Yoani resented. She moved to Switzerland in 2002 instead, becoming interested in Computer Science.  She did finally decide to return to Cuba, setting up a newspaper 'Contodos' that advocated freedom of expression, and bypasses Cuba's censorship laws by emailing blog entries to foreign friends. Her blog is incredibly popular and has been translated into 17 different languages. In 2008, she was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people, and has been praised in speeches by U.S. President Barrack Obama for her empowerment of Cuban people.

 is for Zora

Zora Neale Hurston was an American author whose works explored folklore and anthropology. She published four novels, and over fifty short stories, plays and essays. The most celebrated of which being the 1937 novel 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'. When she wasn't writing, Zora was also a civil rights activist who fought for the rights of African Americans. Born in Alabama, her writing was influenced by the traditional folklore from the Deep South, the Caribbean and Latin America, all of which she had studied at various universities. The daughter of two former slaves, she had to provide the money for her education herself and managed to land a scholarship to study anthropology in the 1920s, before moving to Harlem, New York. Whilst writing, she travelled the world, visiting countries such as Haiti and Jamaica where she studied voodoo. Despite her success, she struggled financially after being falsely accused of molesting a ten year old boy, despite being able to prove she was in another country at the time. After criticising the idea of segregation, she found it even harder to get published, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Florida.

An A-Z of Amazing Women

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