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50 Best Female Authors of All Times

Expressing themselves through the written word is something that women have been doing for a very long time. When society did not let them express their views openly, they chose to keep their writing under wraps and wrote under pseudonyms.; but they continued to write. Their writings and their thoughts impressed people and made a mark. Today when we look back, we see so many female authors who won accolades and made a name for themselves.  

Among the hundreds and probably thousands of women writers that the world has seen, we have made an attempt to list the most famous 50 female authors. 

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors and a pioneer in using the stream of consciousness as a narrative device. Her books include A Room of One’s Own, Mrs Dolloway and To the Lighthouse.

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Jane Austen was an English novelist. Some of her famous books include Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. These books critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century.

Emily Jane Bronte (1818-1848)

Emily Jane Bronte was an English novelist and poet known for her only novel Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature.

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)

Charlotte Bronte, the eldest of the three Bronte sisters, was an English novelist and poet whose novels became classics of English literature. Her books include Jane Eyre, Villette and Shirley, among others.

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Louisa was an American novelist, poet and short story writer, best known for her book Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Joe’s Boys.

Harper Lee (1926- 2016)

Nelle Harper Lee was an American novelist best known for the book To Kill a Mocking Bird which came out in 1960 and won the Pulitzer in 1961. It became a classic of modern American literature.

Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

Toni Morrison, whose real name was Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison was an American novelist whose first book, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon brought her into the national limelight and won the National Book Critics Award.

George Elliot (1819-1880)

George Elliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. Her works include Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss, Romola, Felix Holt and the Radical.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, teacher, environmental activist and inventor. Her well-known books include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments and The Year of the Flood.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Gertrude was an American novelist, poet, playwright and art collector known for her books Tender Buttons, Picasso, Three Lives, and The World is Round.

JK Rowling

Joanne Rowling CH OBE FRSL is a British author and philanthropist known all over the world for Harry Potter, a seven-volume children’s fantasy series published from 1997 to 2007.

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is an American writer who published her first book in 1963. Since then, she has published 58 novels, several plays and novellas, short stories, poems and non-fiction.

PD James (1920-2014)

Phyllis Dorothy James OBE, FRSA, FRSL, was an English novelist who mainly wrote detective novels. The character Adam Dalgliesh, the police commander and poet, is a well-known character in her books.

Georgette Heyer (1902-1974)

Georgette Heyer was an English novelist and short story writer whose genres were regency romance and detective fiction. She began writing when she was just about 20 when she turned a story for her brother into the novel The Black Moth and wrote several books which are read to this day.

Roxane Gay

Roxane is an American writer, professor, editor and social commentator known for her essays, short stories and novels. Her well-known works include Bad Feminist, a New Times best-selling essay collection; Ayiti, a short story collection; An Untamed State, a book and Hunger, a memoir.

Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist. Originally published in Italian, her books have been translated into many languages. Her four-book series of Neapolitan Novels are her most widely known works; Time magazine called her one of the 100 most influential people in 2016.

Hilary Mantel (1952-2022)

Dame Hilary Mary Mantel, DBE, FRSL, was a British writer whose work includes historical fiction, personal memoirs and short stories.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Nilanjana Sudeshna “Jhumpa” Lahiri is an American author of Indian origin known for her short stories, novels and essays in English and Italian.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American journalist and author best known for her book Eat, Pray, Love. The book sold over 12 million copies and has been translated into over 30 languages. It was made into a film of the same name in 2010.

Isabel Allende

Isabel Angelica Allende Liona is a Chilean author known for her works like The House of the Spirits, City of the Beasts and Violetta. Her works sometimes include elements of magical realism.

Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is an American author who received the 2002 PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction for her book Bel Canto. Her other books include The Dutch House, State of Wonder, The Patron Saint of Liars and The Magician’s Assistant.

Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lay Mallowan, DBE, was an English writer known for her detective novels and short story collection. She wrote 66 books and 14 short story collections and is well-known for creating the fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Moss Marple.

Sue Monk Kidd

Sue is an American writer known for her novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings.

Arundhati Roy

Suzanna Arundhati Roy is an Indian author best known for her book The God of Small Things which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 and became a best seller. Arundhati is also a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes.

Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai is an Indian female author best known for her book The Inheritance of Loss which won the 2006 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Fiction Award. The Economic Times labelled her as one of the 20 most influential global Indian women.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia was an American writer whose best-known works include the poems “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” and the novel The Bell Jar. Her works express a sense of alienation and self-destruction that has resonated with many readers since the mid-20th century.

Daphne du Maurier (1907–1989)

Dame Daphne du Maurier, DBE, was an English novelist, biographer and playwright who came to be known as Lady Browning after her husband was knighted in 1946. Her well-known works include Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, The Breaking Point and Flight of the Falcon.

Celeste Ng

Celeste is an American writer and novelist. She is the author of several books like Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere and Our Missing Hearts, and her short stories have been published in many journals. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, won the Amazon Book of the Year award and a lot of praise from critics.

Donna Tartt

Donna is an American author who has written several well-known books. Her novels include The Secret History, The Little Friend and The Goldfinch. She won the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend in 2003 and the Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch in 2014.

Alice Munro

Alice is a Canadian short story writer awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013. Her work has been described as a revolution in the architecture of short stories, especially in its tendency to move forward and backwards in time.

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith FRSL is an English novelist, essayist and short story writer. Her debut novel, White Teeth, was a bestseller and won several awards. She has been a Professor of Creative Writing at New York University since 2010.

Mary Shelley (1797-1831)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was an English novelist who wrote the Gothic Novel Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, which is considered an early example of science fiction. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Edna O’Brien

Josephine Edna O’Brien DBE is an Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short-story writer. She has received a lot of recognition for her work. She has been described as “the most gifted woman now writing in English” by Philip Roth and “one of the great creative writers of her generation” by Mary Robinson, a former President of Ireland.”

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson MBE is an English writer of novels, plays and short stories. She is known for having created the Jackson Brodie series of detective novels which has been adapted into the BBC One series Case Histories.

Ali Smith

Ali Smith CBE FRSL is a Scottish author, playwright, academic and journalist. She has been described as “Scotland’s Nobel laureate-in-waiting”.

Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones is an American author and academic known for An American Marriage which was a 2018 Oprah’s Book Club Selection and won the 2019 Women’s Prize for fiction.

Alice McDermott

Alice is an American writer and a Professor at John Hopkins University. For her 1998 book Charming Billy she won an American Book Award and the U.S. National Book Award for fiction.

Flannery O’Conner- (1925-1964)

Mary Flannery O’Connor was an American short story writer, novelist and essayist. She wrote two novels, 31 short stories and several reviews and commentaries.

Jane Smiley

Jane is an American novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992 for her book A Thousand Acres.

Anne Tylor

Anne is an American novelist, short story writer and literary critic. She has published 24 novels, of which three have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. These are Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons. Breathing Lessons won the prize in 1989.

Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Doris May Lessing CH OMG was a British novelist. Born to British parents, she lived in Iran till 1925. From Iran, the family moved to Southern Rhodesia, and finally, in 1949, they moved to London.

Angela Carter (1940-1992)

Angela Carter, whose real name was Angela Olive Pearce, was an English poet, short story writer and journalist known for her feminist, magical realism and picturesque works. She is best known for her 1979 book The Bloody Chamber.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942)

Lucy Maud Montgomery OBE was a Canadian author very well-known for her collection of novels, essays, short stories and poetry, beginning with Anne of Green Gables in 1908. She published 20 books, 530 short stories, 500 poems and 30 essays.

Louise Edrich

Louise Edrich is an American author of novels, poetry and children’s books which features Native American characters and settings. She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a federally recognised tribe of the Anishinaabe.

Sarah Waters

Sarah Ann Walters OBE is a Welsh novelist best known for her books set in Victorian society. Most feature lesbian protagonists, such as Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith.

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)

Nadine was a South African writer and political activist who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. She was recognised as a writer “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity.”

Emma Donoghue

Emma is an Irish- Canadian playwright, novelist, literary historian and screenwriter who has written many well-known books. Her novel Room, published in 2010, was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and an International best seller. Her 1995 novel Hood won the Stonewell Book Award, and Slammerkin won the Ferro-Grumly Award for Lesbian fiction.

Penelope Lively

Dame Penelope Margaret Lively DBE FRSL is a British writer who writes fiction for children and adults. She has won the Booker Prize and the Carnegie Medal for British children’s books.

Emma Straub

Emily is an American novelist and bookstore owner. Her novels include Modern Lovers, All Adults Here, The Vacationers and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. She also written a short story collection titled Other People We Married.

Carol Shields (1935-2003)

Carol was an American-born Canadian novelist and short story writer. She is best known for the novel, The Stone Diaries, which she wrote in 1993. This book won the US Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Governor General’s Award in Canada.

This list of famous women writers is not exhaustive as it cannot be. You could add more names in the comments section and add to it.

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50 Best Female Authors of All Times