10 Inspiring Women Novelists, Poets, and Writers
Words of Wisdom to Celebrate Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month is celebrated in March and recognizes the contributions of women in the United States.
Here are my favorite women novelists, poets, and writers from around the world and a bit about their stories and many accomplishments.
- Louisa May Alcott
November 29, 1832 ~ March 6, 1888
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
Louisa May Alcott was an American writer best known as the author of the classic novel Little Women. The book has become one of the best-loved books of all time and has been called “the very best of books to reach the hearts of the young of any age from six to sixty.”
Raised in New England, Alcott grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau, who were family friends.
Alcott was an advocate for women’s suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.
2. Emily Dickinson
December 10, 1830 ~ May 15, 1886
“Hope is the thing with feathers.”
Emily Dickinson was an American poet. Although extremely prolific in her writings, she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. After her death, her younger sister, Lavinia, discovered 40 hand-bound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems. The first volume of her work was published in 1890, but it wasn’t until 1955 that a complete collection of her poetry was prepared by Thomas H. Johnson for publication by Harvard University Press as The Poems of Emily Dickinson.
The most recent editions of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters include The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by R. W. Franklin, 1998; The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas Johnson, 1955; and The Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas Johnson, 1958. Early editions of Dickinson’s work are now in the public domain. These editions include those edited by Mabel Loomis Todd and Thomas Wentworth Higginson in the 1890s, as well as some of Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s editions.
Known for using unorthodox punctuation, rhythm, and syntax throughout her poetry, Dickinson didn’t follow the traditional rules of the genre. She is considered to be one of the most significant American poets of all time.
3. George Eliot
November 22, 1819 ~ December 22, 1880
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator, and among the best of the writers of the Victorian era.
Eliot wrote seven acclaimed novels, including Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, and Daniel Deronda. Her novel Middlemarch has been described as one of the greatest literary works ever written.
4. Helen Keller
June 27, 1880 ~ June 1, 1968
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Helen Keller was an American author, lecturer, and political activist. At 19 months old, she suffered an illness that left her deaf and blind. Five years later, her parents located a teacher, Anne Sullivan, who helped Keller overcome her disabilities and learn to communicate. Sullivan remained a mentor and companion to Keller and continued to assist in her education, which ultimately included earning a degree from Radcliffe College, the first college degree earned by a deaf and blind person.
Keller’s first book, The Story of My Life, detailed her journey from childhood to college student. Her life was depicted numerous times in various forms of media. The best known was The Miracle Worker, a dramatic work based on Keller’s autobiography first as a teleplay in 1957, then a Broadway play in 1959, and finally an Academy Award-winning feature film in 1962.
Keller went on to devote her life to speaking worldwide and working on behalf of others living with disabilities. She also advocated for women’s suffrage, pacifism, labor rights, and other social causes. In 1915 she co-founded Helen Keller International, which focused on research in vision, health, and nutrition. In 1920, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union. President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1962.
5. Emma Lazarus
July 22, 1849 ~ November 19, 1887
“I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Emma Lazarus was one of the first high-profile, successful Jewish American authors. She began writing poetry and translating German poems at an early age. Her first commercially published poetry collection, Poems and Translations, gained the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson, among others.
Later in life, Lazarus spoke out against the persecution of Jews in Russia, through both poetry and prose. She became an advocate for Jewish refugees and for the creation of a Jewish homeland. She is best remembered for her sonnet “The New Colossus,” commemorating the plight of immigrants. Its lines were inscribed on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1903.
6. Eleanor Roosevelt
October 11, 1884 ~ November 7, 1962
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Eleanor Roosevelt was an American writer, politician, diplomat, and humanitarian. She served as First Lady of the United States during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office, greatly expanding that role through her political activity. She regularly held press conferences, traveled across the country giving frequent lectures, hosted a radio show, and wrote a daily syndicated newspaper column, “My Day,” which ran six days a week from 1936 to 1962.
After her husband’s death in 1945, Eleanor was appointed the first delegate to the United Nations. In April 1946, she became the first chair of the preliminary UN Commission on Human Rights and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was passionate about numerous causes, including women’s issues and the civil rights of African Americans and Japanese Americans. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed her to chair the Commission on the Status of Women, and she held that position until shortly before her death. During her lifetime and after her passing, Eleanor Roosevelt was the recipient of numerous awards for her tireless work, including one of the United Nations’ first Human Rights Prizes.
7. Christina Rossetti
December 5, 1830 ~ December 29, 1894
“Choose love not in the shallows but in the deep.”
Christina Rossetti was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. Her best-known works are Goblin Market and Other Poems and The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems, which both featured illustrations by her brother, artist/poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These collections established her as a significant Victorian poet. Of her subsequent books, Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book is most notable among children’s books of the 19th century.
Interest in Rossetti’s writing endures today, and she is considered alongside Elizabeth Barrett Browning as one of the finest women poets of the era.
8. Anna Sewell
March 30, 1820 ~ April 25, 1878
“We shall all have to be judged according to our works, whether they be towards man or towards beast.”
Anna Sewell was an English author whose only published work was the classic children’s novel Black Beauty. Although she had helped edit manuscripts of her mother’s books in her youth, she did not become a published author herself until the age of 57.
Sewell wrote Black Beauty during the last seven years of her life, when her declining health kept her confined to her home. She had a great love of horses and concern for their humane treatment. In conceiving the book, she explained “a special aim was to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.” The book was published just five months before Sewell’s death in 1878 and became one of the best-loved children’s classics of all time.
9. Harriet Beecher Stowe
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you until it seems that you cannot hold on for a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time when the tide will turn.”
June 14, 1811 ~ July 1, 1896
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American author, abolitionist, and philanthropist. She received national attention in 1852 for her anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. While well-received in the North, the book and its author provoked hostility in the South. It ultimately became a best-seller in the United States, Britain, Europe, and Asia and was translated into over 60 languages.
Stowe was invited to speak about her influential novel and slavery in cities across North America and Europe. She continued to be a successful and prolific writer, completing 30 books over the course of her
After the war ended, Tubman dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly, establishing a Home for the Aged, which became her own residence in 1911, two years before her death.
10. Ella Wheeler Wilcox
November 5, 1850 ~ October 30, 1919
“Laugh and the world laughs with you
Weep and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American author and poet whose early poems were published while she was still in high school. Her most famous poem, “Solitude,” was first published in the February 25, 1883 issue of The New York Sun. The poem was included in her collection Poems of Passion shortly after.
Though not critically acclaimed, Wilcox’s poetry was widely known and well loved by the general public. Her cheerful and optimistic themes were expressed in plainly written rhyming verse, many lines of which became enduring, popular quotes.
Here are further resources for inspiring books of quotes by women: