3 Kickass Feminist Authors Who Were WAY Ahead Of Their Time

It’s 8 am and you stumble into your English classroom more of a caffeinated zombie than a college student.

Your professor tells you to get out your classic novel and begins to read aloud. Before you know it, your head is down and you are fast asleep. English literature is a total snooze, right? WRONG!

Trust me when I say, there are certain books that you definitely want to stay awake for. Especially when you read them differently than you did in high school.

Some background: the feminist movement picked up speed in the 1960’s, fighting against women’s inability to make as much money as men do in the same profession, women’s domestic responsibilities, and society’s lack of support towards talented women. (Sounds familiar, huh?)

But what if I told you that this actually started in the 1300’s? You’d probably call BS, but hear me out.

Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the first male authors to write a female character that defied domestic stereotypes and has even been called the Father of English Literature. He inspired William Shakespeare. Yep, let that sink in. So even though we might be completely bored by most classic novels and plays, here are some feminist authors that  you should definitely check out!

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in 1343 (holy smokes!) and wrote The Canterbury Tales in 1386. This classic collection of tales covered all sorts of controversial topics ranging from religion to racism, and especially, feminism.

Chaucer has been called a proto-feminist because he created one of the most outspoken female characters roughly 560 years before the feminist movement even started.

I’m talking the Wife of Bath. This woman was written in the middle ages aka medieval times aka the time when women were basically there to be a good wife and crank out lots of babies. Not really my cup of tea.

But the reason the Wife of Bath is so amazing is because she not only speaks out against these expectations but also reclaims what it means to be a wife.

Get this: she had not one, not two, but FIVE husbands! Why? Because she loved sex and was going to have it with whoever she damned well pleased.

The Wife of Bath is worth reading because this may be the one time in the medieval times when we see a man who just gets it. Well done, Geoffrey Chaucer.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen is an author that you probably know a lot better than good ole’ Geoffrey.

She was born in 1775 and wrote the one and only Pride and Prejudice in 1813 (still 130 years before the rise of feminism). The famous novel features Elizabeth Bennet, a woman who refuses to simply be married off to anyone.

Elizabeth is brilliant, witty, and not to mention stubborn. Elizabeth is iconic because not only does she stand true to her integrity, she also always watches out for her family.

Why else is Elizabeth so great? Because she never even considers changing herself for a man. She knows exactly who she is and what she stands for and that is something that I think we can still appreciate and learn from to this day. You go, Jane Austen.

Earnest Hemingway

Last but not least is the unbeatable Earnest Hemingway. Born 1899, he published The Sun Also Rises in 1926.

The roarin’ twenties  happen to be my personal favorite time period in American history: the music, the fashion, and the image of the new woman are (need I say it again?) kickass.

In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway creates Brett Ashley. Brett embodies the ideals of the new woman of the 1920s, meaning she (and she alone) has control over her own life. Aka she can sleep with whoever she wants, spend money however she pleases, and act in any manner she damn well chooses.

Sounds pretty nice if you ask me. Brett, if nothing else, is the prime example of a woman who changed the way women were perceived. Earnest Hemingway, you rock my socks off.

So in the end, you may not have time to read an entire novel by Austen or even want to translate Chaucer, but at least, we can all appreciate that 700 years was a LONG time ago and the fact that we can still identify with writings from way back then blows my mind.

Though Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, and Earnest Hemingway may not have considered themselves a feminist author doesn’t mean that we can’t. Thanks, Geoff, Jane, and Earnest, for thinking that feminism was sexy way before everyone else did.

Interested in reading? Here’s a PDF to the Wife of Bath, Pride and Prejudice, and The Sun Also Rises!

Kristine Schmidbauer

Editorial Contributor, University of Redlands Major: English Literature and Education Her heart belongs to: Chocolate, nicknames, and dark wash blue jeans. Her guilty pleasures: Bad puns, snorting while laughing, and playing with the neighborhood cats.

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