Some authors are downright inspirational when they have little to no intention to be. Others force it, and fail miserably. Some don’t want to be inspiring at all, and try to make sure they couldn’t be accused of it. I like the first and the last particularly, though I haven’t really ever read too many books setting out to inspire, except maybe Eat, Pray, Love, and I don’t intend to repeat the experience anytime soon!
But these authors are all badass in their own way, and I love them for it!
- Anne Brontë
Anne was quiet and stoic, dealing primarily with her deadbeat brother Branwell, her wild sister Emily and her disparaging Charlotte. She’s often forgotten and overlooked, despite her genius being as great (in my opinion) as that of her sisters. She endured her fatal illness without much complaint, even after watched almost all of her siblings die around her. She wasn’t afraid to tackle really full on, socially unacceptable topics in her works, making her my favourite Brontë of them all!
2. Fanny Burney
Fanny Burney risked the censure of her family to write. She spent a long time in a French prisoner of war camp during the Napoleonic wars- but Napoleon himself told her he liked her work. She underwent a mastectomy without anaesthesia, and lived to write about it. She wrote about things that pushed the envelope, and didn’t apologise for it. Very, very awesome.
This woman overcame so many things that would have kept most people down. Stillbirth, a horrible husband, a fiancee who not only criticised her work and deserted her professionally, but also had TWO OTHER fiancees on the side, an unwanted pregnancy and much much more, and that was only in the first 20 years of her life. She then went on to be thoroughly awesome (I hope in revenge) and had a fairly stable lesbian relationship with Bryher for over 40 years. You go, girl!
4. Virginia Woolf
However much I dislike some of her attitudes, Virginia Woolf was Queen and she knew it. She totally dominated the modernist groups, wrote like a total maniac for weeks on end and did some pretty revolutionary things. Despite all this, she was emotionally fragile and admitted it, which to me is a strong thing in itself.
5. Jean Rhys
Not only did Jean Rhys manage to hold her breath long enough to sleep with Ford Madox Ford, she also wrote the most scathing portrait of a man EVER in After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, and what’s more, he deserved it. Yes, she led a sad life, but she overcame so many things, such as bullying, racism, poverty and sexism. She even bounced back and smashed people’s expectations by publishing Wide Sargasso Sea, when people had assumed she’d succumbed to her raging alcoholism.
6. Rebecca West
I don’t even know where to begin with Rebecca West. She travelled through Yugoslavia on the brink of war, she hunted and shamed Nazis, she lived though terrible treatment from H.G. Wells and she wrote fabulous novels that deserve far more attention than they are given.
Her abusive absolute raging prick of a husband literally locked her in a room to write the Claudine novels, until she was so sick that she was on the edge of death. Then he claimed the novels and subsequent royalties as his own, t’then when he had been busted and spent all the money that should have been hers, he sold the rights to the books and left her utterly destitute, relying on dancing to scrape by. But scrape by she did, and went on to become even more unbelievably awesome.
8. Katherine Mansfield
Moving from a New Zealand sheep farm to London must have been quite the experience for a 19 year old woman, especially in the early 20th century. She somehow managed to be friends with Virginia Woolf without throttling her, a fear that seems to have been almost superhuman. She was bisexual, and had lovers of both sexes, including a Maori woman, which shows she wasn’t sucked in to the racism so prevalent in that era.
9. Maria Edgeworth
A contemporary of Jane Austen, Maria Edgeworth was an Irish woman who wrote about some pretty controversial topics, especially Anglo-Irish relations in a time when this was distinctly improper for a woman to do so. She met Lord Byron and thought very little of him, which makes me like her even more. She wanted to write about traditional Irish culture when it was an unfashionable thing to do, and she wrote about interracial marriage in Belinda (though publishers later removed it from her work). When the Famine raged across her homeland, she campaigned tirelessly for relief for the poor.
10. Natalie Barney
Natalie Barney, an American expat who moved to Paris in the early 20th century, was well known for her outrageous parties and bohemian lifestyle. She ran a literary salon that drew some very famous attendees, including Colette and Edith Wharton. She ran hers in opposition to Gertrude Stein, and absolutely rocked it. Her outgoing and unashamed lesbian behaviour and cross dressing was considered deviant, but she discovered some of the biggest names in English literature, and told her critics to get stuffed!