Feminist literature is fiction, nonfiction, drama or poetry which supports the feminist goals of defining, establishing and defending equal civil, political, economic and social rights for women. It often identifies women's roles as unequal to those of men – particularly as regards status, privilege and power – and generally portrays the consequences to women, men, families, communities and societies as undesirable. In these seven stories selected by the critic August Nemo you can enjoy the first movements of feminist literature: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin The Fullness of Life by Edith Wharton The Gentle Lena by Gertrude Stein The History of England by Jane Austen The Invisible Girl by Mary Shelley The Marble Child by Edith Nesbit
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) championed women's rights in her prolific fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. In addition to writing books, she produced a magazine of essays, fiction, opinion pieces, and poetry that spoke to women's issues and social reform: seven volumes of The Forerunner were produced, running from 1909 to 1916.
Kate Chopin was born in St Louis, Missouri on 8 Feb 1850. Born Katherine O'Flaherty, she grew up in a predominantly female household after her father died when she was just four years old. Her father was an Irish immigrant, and her mother was French Creole.
In 1870 she married Oscar Chopin, a local cotton trader, and together they had six children. In 1882 Oscar died from swamp fever, leaving Kate a widow with a large family to support, and the heir to his sizeable debts. She turned to writing in order to support her young family, publishing her first short story in 1889. A number of her works were subsequently published in literary magazines and popular American periodicals, including Vogue.
Chopin published only two novels in her lifetime: At Fault and The Awakening. The Awakening, published in 1899, was largely condemned as vulgar and immoral by critics of the time. Dismayed by such a harsh reception, Chopin cut short her brief career as a novelist, and for the remainder of her life focused solely on writing short stories, poetry and reviews. Kate Chopin died on 22 August 1904 from a brain haemorrhage.
Kate O'Flaherty was born on February 8, 1850, in St. Louis, of French and Irish ancestry. She was graduated from the St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart in 1868; two years later she married Oscar Chopin and went to live with him in New Orleans. They had five sons by 1878, and the following year they moved to Cloutierville, a tiny French village in Natchitoches Parish, in northwest Louisiana. There their last child and only daughter was born in 1879.
After Oscar's death in 1882, his widow ran their plantations and carried on a notorious romance with a married neighbour, but abruptly chose to return to St. Louis in 1884. Within five years she had begun her literary career, and during the next decade she published two novels - At Fault (1890) and The Awakening (1899) - and nearly a hundred short stories, poems, essays, plays and reviews.
Two volumes of short stories mostly set in the Cane River country of Louisiana, Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897) were acclaimed during her lifetime. But The Awakening, the story of a woman who has desires that marriage cannot fulfil, was widely condemned, and Chopin's publisher cancelled her third short-story collection, A Vocation and a Voice. Chopin died on August 22 1904.
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was a brilliant, clever American writer known for such works as The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome. She became the first woman to win a Pulitzer when she was awarded the 1921 Prize for her novel The Age of Innocence.
A member of the New York elite, Wharton funnelled her experiences into vivid portrayals and critiques of high society, while deftly exposing the painful tension between personal desires and societal norms. Wharton died in Paris in 1937 at the age of 75, having written 85 short stories, 16 novels, 11 works of nonfiction, and 3 books of poetry.
"America is my country," declared expatriate Gertrude Stein, "but Paris is my hometown." In addition to writing novels, stories, plays, and poems, Stein conducted a Parisian salon that was frequented by an international array of avant-garde artists and authors.
Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon, near Basingstoke, the seventh child of the rector of the parish. She lived with her family at Steventon until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801. After his death in 1805, she moved around with her mother; in 1809, they settled in Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire. Here she remained, except for a few visits to London, until in May 1817 she moved to Winchester to be near her doctor. There she died on 18 July 1817.
Jane Austen was extremely modest about her own genius, describing her work to her nephew, Edward, as 'the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory, on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour'.
As a girl she wrote stories, including burlesques of popular romances. Her works were published only after much revision, four novels being published in her lifetime.
These are Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). Two other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously in 1817 with a biographical notice by her brother, Henry Austen, the first formal announcement of her authorship. Persuasion was written in a race against failing health in 1815-16. She also left two earlier compositions, a short epistolary novel, Lady Susan, and an unfinished novel, The Watsons. At the time of her death, she was working on a new novel, Sanditon, a fragmentary draft of which survives.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, into a life of personal tragedy. In 1816, she married the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and that summer traveled with him and a host of other Romantic intellectuals to Geneva.
Her greatest achievement was piecing together one of the most terrifying and renowned stories of all time: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Shelley conceived Frankenstein in, according to her, "a waking dream."
This vision was simply of a student kneeling before a corpse brought to life. Yet this tale of a mad creator and his abomination has inspired a multitude of storytellers and artists. She died on February 1, 1851.,
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