Maya Angelou singing / bswise / Flickr.
Jack Kerouac went to Mexico and slept with lots of women. Yawn. He road tripped across the country; he did drugs; he was secretly bisexual. Charles Dickens had pet ravens. JD Salinger was missing a testicle. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for being gay. I could reel off many weird, specific facts about male writers. They’re ingrained in our literary culture. But what about their female counterparts?
The best author bios belong to female writers. Not only were they living ahead of their time, they were doing so in defiance of a system slanted against them in every way. These female writers lived every day with kickass feminist energy. Here’s to them:
After surviving sexual assault as a child and becoming mute for five years as she processed her trauma, Maya Angelou was determined to make the most out of her life. This woman was the first black woman to become a cable car conductor in San Francisco; she was a sex worker and a pimp during her younger days; and she spoke six languages. Not only did she write her famous memoirs, she also wrote cookbooks, directed films, and was nominated for a Tony Award. Wild is the only accurate way to describe Maya Angelou’s life.
As a young woman, Katherine Mansfield was unafraid to break the social conventions of colonial New Zealand. She openly formed relationships with both men and women; she supported Māori in disputes about land. But, unable to escape feelings of repression and isolation in her home country, she left for Europe aged 20. By travelling through Paris, Germany, and London, she was able to live a life she felt was worth writing about.
By the age of 15, Gabriela Mistral was the sole breadwinner of her family. She worked as a teacher aide, and throughout the next few decades, worked her way up through the education system to implement literacy programmes throughout Chile and the Spanish-speaking world. Her most famous poems carry messages about social change. As someone who fought to make her way in the world, she did all she could to ensure that others could have the same opportunities.
Like Mansfield, Angela Carter was never content with her quiet suburban life. As a teenager, she suffered from anorexia. She recovered and escaped her home by marrying a rock guitarist, but quickly became bored with that too. She left her marriage and moved to Japan for two years, where she began to develop more overtly gender focused work. Carter, though now upheld as an icon of literary feminist discourse, was never comfortable with the idea that her works were illustrative of feminist theory. She believed that her life and her writing were just as universal as the works of male writers.
The child of a feminist philosopher and an anarchist, Mary Shelley was destined to question the social expectations of the 1800s. And she lived up to that destiny, eloping with a poet after a brief affair at age 17 and completing her first novel (Frankenstein – you might have heard of it) at age 19. They lived a happy life together, but her husband drowned off the coast of Italy in 1822. Even in her grief, Mary Shelley continued to write and to help others, taking in single women who were shunned by society.Support Villainesse