Top 22 Feminist Authors to Discover for Yourself

Discover the voice of women by reading one of these top 22 feminist authors.

Feminism is the movement that demands equal political, social, and economic status for women compared to men. While the modern woman legally has many of the same rights as her male counterpart, many social conventions continue to pull women down and elevate males over females. Feminist authors attempt to take on these conventions and write about them, drawing attention to the plight of women and their unfair treatment.

Since the 1800s, feminism has woven its way into the writing of many famous female authors. If you want to get a clearer picture of how women experience life and where social injustices lie, reading some feminist authors is a good starting point. From the strong female characters of Jane Austen to the hilarious essays of Gloria Steinem, these authors are sure to strike a chord in the minds of anyone passionate about equality.

Best Feminist Authors to Read from the 1800s to Today

Best feminist authors

Whether you are a feminist yourself or simply want to understand the feminist movement more deeply, this list of twenty-two feminist authors will help you gain the understanding you seek. 

1. Margaret Atwood

With works published in 45 countries, Margaret Atwood is well-known in the modern literary world. The Handmaid’s Tale, now an award-winning TV series, tells the tale of Offred, a woman given to a man in order to have a child for his wife. This dystopian feminist novel serves as satire and a warning of what could happen in the future if women are not valued.

Though she is best known for The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood has won several awards for other works. She holds a Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and a Franz Kafka International Literary Prize. Atwood lives in Canada.

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The Handmaid's Tale
  • Great product!
  • Atwood, Margaret (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 311 Pages - 03/16/1998 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

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2. Virginia Woolf

In her book-length essay, A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf theorizes that the voice of female writers has been silenced throughout history and that women writers must fight for the right to be heard. Though Woolf never called herself a feminist, this particular work has been central to the rise of the feminist movement within the world of literature.

Woolf began her writing career in 1900 and continued writing throughout her life. She lived in England throughout her life. 

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A Room of One's Own
  • Mariner Books
  • Woolf, Virginia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 128 Pages - 12/27/1989 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

3. Mary Wollstonecraft

Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, argues that women are not inferior to men but equal. This 18th-century author pushed for the social equality of women long before it became a popular political stance. This work was groundbreaking for its time because it argued that women were not inferior to men.

Interestingly, when Wollstonecraft died, her widower published her memoir, and her unusual lifestyle discredited her reputation. However, she regained popularity in the 20th century with the rise of the feminist movement. 

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: By Mary Wollstonecraft - Illustrated
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 145 Pages - 08/03/2017 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

4. Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was an African-American woman who dedicated her work to fighting sexism and racism. Lorde was a prolific poet and the New York State Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1993. The Black Unicorn is a popular poetry anthology from this author, and Sister Outsider, a collection of essays and speeches, is considered one of her best feminist works.

Throughout her life, Lorde dedicated her work to fighting classism and sexism. Her work was known for its calls to social justice.

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The Black Unicorn: Poems (Norton Paperback)
  • Lorde, Audre (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 136 Pages - 08/17/1995 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

5. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tammi L. Coles, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States at the age of 19. Her book We Should All Be Feminists defines 21st Century feminism and how it should impact politics. 

Adichie has several awards to her name, including the O. Henry Prize and the Caine Prize for African Writing.

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We Should All Be Feminists
  • Anchor Books
  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages - 08/18/2022 (Publication Date) - Anchor Books (Publisher)

6. Simone de Beauvoir

French writer Simone de Beauvoir had a significant influence on the modern feminism movement. Her 1949 treatise The Second Sex outlined the ways in which women had been oppressed throughout history. This book also marked the first time in literary history where the ideas of sex and gender were separated.

Beauvoir lived most of her life in Paris. She didn’t consider herself a philosopher though her works were considered highly influential.

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The Second Sex
  • Vintage
  • De Beauvoir, Simone (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 832 Pages - 05/03/2011 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

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7. Angela Carter

Angela Carter was the pen name for Angela Olive Pearce, a British novelist and short-story writer known for feminist works. The Bloody Chamber, published in 1979, is a short story anthology. The stories are loosely based on fairy tales, and most feature female protagonists.

Carter was named one of the 50 Greatest British Writers by The Times in 2008.

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The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories: 75th-Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
  • Penguin Books
  • Carter, Angela (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 05/26/2015 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

8. Betty Friedan

Born in 1921, Betty Friedan was an American feminist writer and activist best known for The Feminine Mystique. This work sparked the period of second-wave feminism, which increased equality for women in the 1960s and 1970s.

Interestingly, one of her last books, The Second Stage, actually criticized the excessive nature of the feminists of the 1980s.

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The Feminine Mystique
  • W W Norton Company
  • Friedan, Betty (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 600 Pages - 09/03/2013 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

9. Charlotte Perkins Gilman

C.F. Lummis (Original copyright holder, presumably photographer)Restoration by Adam Cuerden, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In many ways, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was ahead of her time. Her nonfiction work Women and Economics pushed for economic freedom for women, but it was published in 1898, long before the modern feminism movement.

Her fiction work, The Yellow Wallpaper, was a short story that showed the mental breakdown an emotionally starved young woman and wife experienced.

The Yellow Wallpaper
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 24 Pages - 06/06/2018 (Publication Date) - Martino Fine Books (Publisher)

10. Kate Bornstein

Kate Bornstein is a modern feminist writer who published Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. She advocates for gender equality for all genders, including nonbinary individuals.

When she is not writing, Kate often lectures in schools across the country.

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us
  • Vintage
  • Bornstein, Kate (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 11/15/2016 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

11. Louisa May Alcott

The author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, created a world where, even in the 1880s, the women in her tale were strong and independent. In addition to writing about strong women, Alcott encouraged young female readers to run; something society did not encourage in her day. 

Alcott sometimes published under pen names, including A. M. Barnard, for more adult-themed sensual stories. 

12. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an African-American poet and author regarded as one of the most influential female voices of modern time. Her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of her most famous; however, it is her poetry that showcases the strength of women and makes her a true feminist writer.

In 2010 Angelou received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her writing. 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Angelou, Maya (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 04/21/2009 (Publication Date) - Ballantine Books (Publisher)

13. Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay has been watching the feminist movement and has a few things to say about it. In Bad Feminist, she talks about politics and feminism, drawing attention to what works and what doesn’t. The essays are funny and thought-provoking and cover all topics relating to women. 

Gay also writes fiction novels, many of which have a feminist slant.

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Bad Feminist: Essays
  • Harper Perennial
  • Gay, Roxane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 08/05/2014 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

14. Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath is known for her confessional poetry writing and her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. In the book, she draws attention to her own struggle with mental illness, and she won the Pulitzer Prize after her death for her writing.

Plath’s normalization of female anger and expression and her demand that women and men have the same rights made her a feminist. 

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The Bell Jar (Modern Classics)
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  • Plath, Sylvia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 244 Pages - 08/02/2005 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial Modern Classics (Publisher)

15. Alice Walker

Alice Walker is an artist, poet, and novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1983. Many of her stories focus on the marginalization of women of color, and The Color Purple is one of her most famous works. It draws attention to the plight of black women and their strength, character, and dignity.

The Color Purple has had several movies and plays based on its story.

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The Color Purple: A Novel
  • Walker, Alice (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 12/10/2019 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

16. Doris Lessing

Ranked fifth on The Times list of the 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945, Doris Lessing wrote novels, short stories, poetry, and even an opera libretto. Her 1962 novel The Golden Notebook explores the growing women’s liberation and sexual revolution movements while also shedding light on mental health.

Though this work was claimed as a great piece of feminist literature, Lessing felt the theme was mental health awareness, not feminism.

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The Golden Notebook: A Novel
  • Lessing, Doris (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 688 Pages - 10/14/2008 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial Modern Classics (Publisher)

17. Jane Austen

Author of six classic novels, including Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen is read around the globe. Her stories centered on strong female characters who are instantly relatable, even in modern times.

Austen’s stories are the subjects of numerous plays and movies, keeping Austen’s characters alive for modern generations.

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Pride and Prejudice
  • Austen, Jane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 259 Pages - 02/15/2021 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

18. Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 for her work that depicted Black America and the rights of both women and African-Americans. Though she did not identify her works as feminist books, many critics consider her one because of her focus on female characters.

In Paradise, she tells the tale of a town with strong, unconventional women and a neighboring patriarchal town bent on destroying those independent women.

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Paradise (Vintage International)
  • Vintage International
  • Morrison, Toni (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 03/11/2014 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

19. Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin published The Awakening in 1899. Many consider it the landmark book on feminism, as Chopin was one of the first woman authors to question traditional views of femininity and motherhood.

Though The Awakening is a work of fiction, it is also a social commentary on the oppressive roles of women in Victorian society.

The Awakening (Dover Thrift Editions: Classic Novels)
  • Kate Chopin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 128 Pages - 11/04/1993 (Publication Date) - Dover Publications (Publisher)

20. Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem is a modern-day feminist writer who founded New York and Ms. magazines. An ardent feminist, she also co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Her collection of essays entitled Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions is considered a diverse collection of writings on the topic, touching on complex topics like genital mutilation, pornography, and menstruation.

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions: Third Edition
  • Steinem, Gloria (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 02/12/2019 (Publication Date) - Picador (Publisher)

21. Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai began fighting for girls when on her way home from school, a masked gunman shot her in the head simply because she had spoken out publicly about girls’ rights to receive a proper education. She chose to use her tragedy as a platform, fighting to give girls a voice and an education.

Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, and her book We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World has drawn attention to the plight of many young women in the modern world.  

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We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World
  • Hardcover Book
  • Yousafzai, Malala (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 01/08/2019 (Publication Date) - Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

22. Naomi Wolf

Thomas Good, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

New York Times bestselling author Naomi Wolf regularly takes on difficult political and social topics in her writing. She is considered a feminist leader and writes regularly on the subject of feminism. Her book The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women highlights that a focus on images of physically perfect women in today’s society is actually hurting the cause of the modern woman by putting forth an impossible ideal.

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The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
  • Harper Perennial
  • Wolf, Naomi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 09/24/2002 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

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