Influential Books by Women about Women

This is a list of books that are about as far from chic-lit as you can get. Ground-breaking provocative and ultimately influential books by women that advanced or emancipated womankind in some way shape or form, be it politically, socially, emotionally or in some other way.
The first one is by an incredible woman for her time,Mary Wollstonecraft. She wrote“A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in1792.Wollstonecraft argued that women deserved to be in the public sphere which was a provocative, and to most men, alarming prospect. She was a tireless campaigner for women to be included in many areas of what were then traditionally male preserves. In the 18th Century, the very notion of educating a woman was considered radical, so one can imagine the waves her book created when published (and the enemies she created for herself). Probably the first book calling for forms of female emancipation.
One book we all have probably read is“Pride & Prejudice”, by Jane Austen, published in 1813. England in this period had just come out of the Napoleonic wars, born out of revolution, and was in no mood to start interfering with the “right” order and hierarchy of things or give poorer people or women more power. Austen’s book was not a direct attack on the system or a rabble-rousing call for change. It was a clever and subtle satirising of class-based snobbery; a side-swipe at some of the accepted mores of the time encased in a very readable and enjoyable novel.
No book list would be complete without one by Virginia Woolf. In “A Room of One’s Own” published in 1929 she espoused the notion that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. It may seem innocuous these days, but that statement and others in her books were a cry for women to have creative and financial freedom and became a rallying cry for mid-20th century feminist intellectuals
Moving to post WW2, we have “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir (1949). It is now consideredthe book that launched a second and more “pushy” wave of feminism. De Beauvoir drew facts and examples from various disciplines to argue and explain the subordinate status of women throughout history, and the need for it to change. It was so controversial that it was placed on the Vatican’s index of forbidden books. A badge of honour!
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, published in 1969) was her first autobiography and covered her youth and teenage years, and includes recounting of rape, teen pregnancy, and racism. Powerful and moving it raised consciousness of these issues and inspired many subsequent women writers.
“The White Album” by Joan Didion (1979) is a collection of essays and stories. She catalogues her nervous breakdown in the opening essay, but she also takes on the women’s movement, Georgia O’Keefe, and the then president of the US, Ronald Reagan. Powerful and provocative. Essential reading.
Finally a more recent book; “The Conflict”, penned by Elisabeth Badinter in 2012. She believes that the trend of naturalism in motherhood—years of breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby wearing—is just a modern and stylish way to keep women down. Controversial and forthright, many women see her as the bête noir of modern feminism, others as a saviour of radical feminism.

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