In case you weren’t aware (I wasn’t until a couple years ago), March is Women’s History Month. So, in honor of the occasion, here are ten ladies of literature I think deserve some attention for their contributions to the written word in order, and with web links where applicable:
1) Margaret McAllister (1956-present)
M. I. McAllister is best known for The Mistmantle Chronicles, a five-book series following the adventures of a young squirrel named Urchin and his friends on the wonderful island of Mistmantle. Though written for younger readers, I’ve found that her books often have just the right mixture of action, humor, and Heart (pun intended) to reach across age boundaries in the manner that only a truly talented writer can manage. For that reason, she is perhaps my favorite living author.
2) Kathryn Lasky (1944-present)
While inextricably linked to her many series of the 21st century (Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Wolves of the Beyond, Bears of the Ice and so on), Lasky has actually been churning out books for young readers for several decades now. From epic fantasy to natural science, her range of subjects seems almost inexhaustible. It is through her books that my abiding love of reading fantasy literature came about–and by extension my love of writing it.
3) Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)
This illustrator-turned-authoress famously started her career out painting watercolors for Christmas cards. She always had a penchant for plants and animals (and fungi too!)–she actually did a great deal of higher study in the natural sciences for a woman in her day. It wasn’t until the 1890’s that she began writing and illustrating the stories for which she would become so well known (The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, and Mr. Tod being my personal favorites).
4) Sharon Creech (1945-present)
Ruby Holler, which I plucked off a shelf at random in 5th grade, and for which she rightfully won a Carnegie Medal in 2002, might be her signature work. However, she has of course written many other things, among them the Newbury Award-winning Walk Two Moons. She’s not the most famous on the list, perhaps, but to me she’s one of the best–for Ruby Holler alone, if nothing else.
5) Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949)
Whether you consider it highly idealized ‘Lost Cause’ trope or a masterful historical romance, Gone with the Wind is undoubtedly one of the hallmarks of 20th century literature and film alike. Curiously enough, it is the only surviving novel by the native Georgian, and though she did publish a few other shorter works, it is undoubtedly this one to which her name will forever be tied. As a side note, she also did volunteer work for the Red Cross throughout the Second World War.
6) Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
An ardent abolitionist and feminist of her day, Ms. Alcott (she never married) is recognized today for the classic (if rather preachy) Little Women (i.e. the Northern Gone with the Wind) and its sequels: Little Men and Jo’s Boys. Though these have been the subject of numerous films and television shows, her body of work really encompasses much more, including several short story collections for children and a few books under the name A. M. Barnard. In a bizarre twist of fate, she died just two days after her father.
7) Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
Jane Eyre was a masterful work when I read it at 17, and I still think so now. (Whereas Wuthering Heights might be the most boring book ever–sorry, Emily fans.) She wrote other things in her rather short life (a phenomenon eerily shared by all five Brontë sisters), such as Villette, but it’s undoubtedly to Jane Eyre that her reputation will always be linked. Jane and her sisters all originally published under the surname Bell (the adoptive first names of Charlotte, Emily and Anne being Currer, Ellis and Acton respectively).
8) Mary Pope Osborne (1949-present)
A truly prolific authoress of modern times, Mrs. Osborne’s most famous work is her award-winning 55-book Magic Tree House series and its companion volumes. Admittedly, I lost track around #33, but there’s no doubt the series has been a huge success without me. The concept of two kids travelling through time to all sorts of wild historical settings is one that’s worked for over two decades now, and doesn’t show signs of stopping soon. Perhaps most interesting of all is that because of the historical element in the fiction, she has been prompted to write nonfiction companion books for most of the existing titles to enhance the educational aspect of the series as well. Even though I haven’t read nearly all of these books, I can appreciate a good self-perpetuating gimmick, and this might just be the best of all the gimmicks I’ve seen so far.
9) Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952)
Goodnight Moon was the very first book I ever read, so I suppose one might say I owe my love of reading to this lady. Her works are much more numerous, however, with a goodly many being published after her untimely death. Some such as The Runaway Bunny and The Color Kittens have likewise gone on to become modern children’s classics.
10) Judy Blume (1938-present)
I was introduced to her Fudge series in 3rd or 4th grade, and I admittedly found them quite amusing. Little did I know at the time that that was but a small fraction of her catalogue, and a relatively recent one as well. She’s been churning out MG and YA books for over 50 years now, and has received both praise and criticism for addressing some more sensitive topics in her work.