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ImportantIn LiteratureWomen

RWC tutor Jackie Arriaga provides insight into books written by women who had an impact on the literary world and beyond.

Agatha Christie-

Agatha Christie was an English writer better known as the “Queen of Mystery” because of her sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections centered around the fictional characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She was one of the best-selling novelists, following behind only the Bible and William Shakespeare, with her books having sold more than one hundred million copies and translated into several languages. Although Christie received no formal education and was largely self-taught, her experiences while traveling helped her find material for some of her most well-known books, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. For almost two decades, Christie used a pseudonym but then began publishing her writings under the name Mary Westmacott before finally using her own name.

Margaret Mitchell-

Anyone can recognize the movie Gone With the Wind, but many know very little of the woman behind the story. Margaret Mitchell was an American journalist who wrote only one novel during her lifetime, for which she won the National Book Award for Fiction for Most Distinguished Novel and the Pulitzer Prize. Mitchell began writing early and even started her own publishing company. Still, one day, when her husband brought home a typewriter and suggested she write her book, she started working on a Civil War-era novel now known as Gone With the Wind. Her hometown of Atlanta and childhood of horseback riding with Confederate veterans inspired her book and encouraged her to volunteer for the American Red Cross during World War II.

Louisa May Alcott-

Another popular book adopted into various film adaptations is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Born in Pennsylvania, Alcott was home-schooled by her father and later studied under the famous naturalists Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Like her novel, Alcott was one of four daughters who remained close to her sisters. While her family suffered from financial struggles, she took many jobs to help alleviate the burdens, eventually turning to writing for support. The great success of her book gave Alcott the independence she was looking for and created a high demand for more books. She also joined the women’s suffrage movement during her lifetime and was also the first woman to register to vote.

Edith Wharton-

Edith Wharton was an American socialite during New York’s Gilded Age. She drew upon her insider’s knowledge of the aristocracy to write her book Age of Innocence, which 1921 made her the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. Her tumultuous marriage became the backdrop to her book as it was an unhappy one where her husband Teddy could not match her intellectual pursuits, and, during that time, she felt immense pressure to become a mother. As the couple grew further apart, Edith wanted to leave her old life behind by moving to Paris in 1913 and filing for a divorce, an act that was heavily criticized during her time. During World War I, Edith used her money for charity and was one of the few journalists to write about the realities of war, which awarded her the Legion of Honor, one of France’s highest awards, in 1916. Besides being an author, she was also highly regarded as a designer.

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