Women Writers We Love

18th Jun 2013

Typewriter Wears The Trousers Ladyfest Ten Fanzine

Well, that happened all over some of our favourite writers today.

Virginia Woolf, Iris Chang, Dorothy Parker, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sylvia Plath, Sanmao and Elise Cowen. The thing they’ve all got in common? They were wonderful, creative, talented and troubled writers. And we just want to wipe the slug slime off them and celebrate the legacy of their fantastic work.

Editors’ note: We were toying with frogspawn for the metaphor here. A flabby, semen-drenched mass of writhing futility. But slug slime is so much closer to the aftertaste this particular article leaves in the mouth.

Virginia Woolf

Like all the other authors on this list, Woolf was a true original, and a pioneer for both women and literature. With classics including both fiction and essays (among them the trailblazing A Room of One’s Own, published in 1929 and advocating financial and creative independence for would-be women writers), her importance, influence and legacy is undeniable. Here’s Patti Smith reading from her 1931 experimental novel, The Waves.

Iris Chang

Iris Chang

“Please believe in the power of one.  One person can make an enormous difference in the world. One person — actually, one idea — can start a war, or end one, or subvert an entire power structure…  You as one individual can change millions of lives. Think big. Do not limit your vision and do not ever compromise your dreams or ideals.”

An author, historian and social rights activist, Iris Chang’s account of the 1997 account of the Nanking Massacre, The Rape of Nanking, became an international bestseller, prompted in part by her own grandparents’ experiences during their escape from the atrocity. Since her death, she has been credited by numerous other authors for bringing the issue such attention, with Richard Rongstad saying “Iris Chang lit a flame and passed it to others. We should not allow that flame to be extinguished.”

Dorothy Parker

This witty, wisecracking satirist and short story writer had a reputation for her caustic comments and wry humour. Her sharp tongue and pen, along with her political side, caused her to be blacklisted by Hollywood, and we love her all the more for being so bold, brave and brilliant in saying the things that no-one else world. Our favourite quote? “Now I know the things I know, and I do the things I do; and if you do not like me so, to Hell, my love, with you!”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Charlotte Perkins Gilman‘s classic short story The Yellow Wallpaper remains as dark and disturbing today as when it was written over a century ago.  A landmark feminist text now renowned for its representation of women’s roles and mental health in the 19th century, the haunting gothic tale is still as relevant, important and powerful as ever.

Sylvia Plath

It’s been fifty years since the publication of Plath’s only novel, The Bell Jar, yet her poetry and fiction remains as vivid, luminous and innovative as it was half a century ago. Listen to this incredible audio clip of her reading Daddy and you’ll know what we mean.



The Taiwanese writer (also known as Echo Chan or Chen Mao Ping) is the author of a long list of books, most of which feature fictionalised accounts of her own life and travel. Although few are available in English, she remains a literary icon in her native Taiwan, and has been cited as an influence by many contemporary Chinese authors.

Elise Cowen


A paid-up member of the Beat Generation and a close contemporary of authors including Allen Ginsberg and Joyce Johnson, Elise’s poetry was never published in her lifetime, though she did feature in Johnson’s memoir Minor Characters. Most of her poems and journals were destroyed by her family after her death, however her longtime friend Leo Skir saved some, providing them for publication in Brenda Knight‘s 1996 book, Women of the Beat Generation.

We are very happy to see The Internet doing a Liz Lemon eye roll and turning its back on the oozing streak of bullshit that prompted this piece. We’re especially loving this brilliant buzzfeed of women writers at work, for instance.

While we won’t be linking to the article in question (they don’t need any more attention or traffic), we hope shining a spotlight on the lives and works of some of these authors (rather than trying to sell clothes by re-enacting their deaths) will go some way to giving them the respect and attention they deserve.

Beulah Maud Devaney/Jane Bradley


  • sianushka says:

    thank you thank you for writing this! the perfect antidote and now inspired to discover the women i hadn’t heard of.

    • Beulah Devaney says:

      Thanks! I want to get profiles on the website of the one’s were missing so if anyone wants to do a Chang or Cowen profile please get in touch!

  • Jackie Downs says:

    Wonderful, enlightening and smart as usual. Can’t wait to watch the clip of Smith reading Woolf – didn’t even know this existed.

  • Donna says:

    I saw that vile ‘fashion’ piece this morning,and refused to even retweet the thing to show how awful it was,why give them air ? Great article.

  • Libby says:

    Wonderful, thank you.