March is Women’s History Month, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to shine the spotlight on some influential female authors, their written work, and their other distinctions. Here we’ll celebrate 21 names from an ever-growing field of eminent female writers, followed by an introduction to two illuminating online degree programs dedicated to literature, language, and culture. 

Mary Shelley  

Shelley is best known for publishing the celebrated novel “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” in 1818. Though not the first horror novel, it is probably the first to have such a lasting influence. “Frankenstein” predated Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” by 79 years. 

George Eliot 

Born Mary Ann Evans, Eliot published under a man’s name to be taken seriously and not have her work prejudged by 19th century society. She’s known for the multi-part novel “Middlemarch” and “Silas Marner,” the latter of which is still required reading in many U.S. high schools.  

The Brontë Sisters 

If ever a family were defined by literature, it’s the Brontës: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. They collectively published a poetry collection under the masculine-sounding names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, respectively. As Currer, Charlotte published “Jane Eyre,” a novel which challenged the conventions of society and female protagonists of the time. The same year, Emily (as Ellis) published her sole novel, “Wuthering Heights,” which broke with Victorian decorum through emotionally driven characters. Though lesser-known than her sisters, Anne authored “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” which may be the world’s first-ever feminist novel. 

Harriet E. Wilson  

Wilson was the first Black person to publish a novel in the United States, albeit anonymously. It’s noteworthy that when her novel was published in 1859, slavery still existed in the nation. 

Louisa May Alcott  

The semiautobiographical novel “Little Women,” penned by Alcott, features female characters who defy traditional gender roles and exhibits other feminist themes. A suffragette and women’s rights advocate, Alcott holds the distinction of being Concord, Connecticut’s first female registered voter. 

Virginia Woolf  

Author of “Mrs. Dalloway” and “To the Lighthouse,” Woolf was known for a modernist style that broke narrative norms by incorporating narrative devices including stream-of-consciousness and interior monologue. 

Agatha Christie  

Christie authored 66 detective novels, including “Death on the Nile” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” Her name remains synonymous with the mystery genre. 

Ayn Rand  

Though no friend to feminism, Rand was very influential in individualist thought, and her books, including “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” feature strong, self-driven female characters. 

Anne Rice 

Rice’s oeuvre runs the gamut from erotica to Christian themes, but she’s best known for her gothic horror stories, including “Interview With the Vampire.”  

Toni Morrison  

Morrison was a book editor who eventually decided to write her own books, starting with the highly influential “The Bluest Eye.” Among her accolades are a Pulitzer Prize, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Nobel Prize in Literature—the first to be awarded to a Black woman.  

Susan Sontag  

Renowned for her essays and novels, Sontag wrote on topics ranging from AIDS to human rights to war to literature itself. Sontag was also a feature film director and activist. Her works include “Against Interpretation” and “The Way We Live Now.” 

Erma Bombeck  

Bombeck is celebrated for her humorous novels and nonfiction, with motherhood being a prevailing theme. These include “The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank” and “Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession.” In the late 1970s, she was a staunch advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee for Women.  

Erica Jong  

A seminal work of second-wave feminism, Jong’s “Fear of Flying” shocked readers—and sold millions of copies—with its nonjudgmental first-person account of a female protagonist’s desire for sexual freedom.   

Margaret Atwood 

Author of the novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”—later a feature film and an acclaimed TV series—Atwood is primarily a writer of adult literary fiction and speculative fiction, often focusing on feminist and environmental themes. 

Giannina Braschi  

A leading voice in “Spanglish” literature, Puerto Rico-born Braschi has authored absurdist and experimental poetry and novels including “Empire of Dreams” and “Yo-Yo Boing!” 

Amy Tan 

Born to Chinese parents in the U.S., Tan used her experience in an immigrant family as inspiration for acclaimed novels such as “The Joy Luck Club.” 

Naomi Klein   

An educator, activist, and bestselling author, Klein has published nonfiction books on topics ranging from politics to business and economic issues to the environment.  

J.K. Rowling  

As a single mother on government support, Rowling transformed her writing abilities into a multi-billion-dollar business empire with the “Harry Potter” books, films, and related projects and merchandise. 

Suzanne Collins 

Collins has made a name for herself as a writer of young adult fiction with strong central female characters, including the dystopian “Hunger Games” series.   

The Importance of Diverse Voices in Literature 

The success of female authors is important not just as a step toward greater gender equality and representation but because it enables women of all nationalities and backgrounds to be heard. This, in turn, gives readers new perspectives that can ideally result in greater understanding. Most of us would never comprehend, for example, what the life of a young Black girl growing up in Jim Crow Era-Arkansas could be like if Maya Angelou hadn’t written the renowned autobiography of her early years, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” 

Immerse Yourself in English-Language Literature and Culture 

If you love literature, The University of Texas Permian Basin’s online English degree programs enable you to explore English-language literature by male and female authors dating from the earliest days of the English nation to the present. Both programs provide a foundation for a variety of rewarding roles, including author, teacher, human resource professional, or lawyer.  

Online Bachelor of Arts in English 

Gain a greater understanding of our world through an array of English and general education courses. Major courses include: 

This BA program is available online only at this UT System institution. 

Online Master of Arts in English 

If you’ve completed a bachelor’s degree, take a deeper dive into English language and culture through our online graduate program’s focused courses, including:  

This MA program allows you to choose from four capstone options. 

Get more details about each program and apply here!