A Celebration of Women Writers And Their Inspirational Works

On March 8th it was International Women’s Day, but really the whole of this month is a celebration of women.  This inspired me to think about, and list, some of my favourite women authors and my favourite books by them.  

All these women have inspired me with their wisdom, creative freedom and proud femininity; and I wanted to share them, and their pearls of wisdom, with you too.

Rupi Kaur

Who better to start with than the indomitable Canadian poet, Rupi Kaur, who is busily inspiring young people to actively be themselves, love themselves, and love others.

We all move forward when
we recognise how resilient
and striking the women
around us are
Rupi Kaur

Rupi is an Indian-born Canadian poet, illustrator and author. She published her first book, Milk & Honey, in 2014 while at the University of Waterloo and has built a loyal following on Instagram and Tumblr with her visual poetry.

Rupi Kaur is an inspiration to millions of women all over the world.

Reading Recommendation:  Milk and Honey and Home Body

Both works chart her embrace of self and her restless quest for change. Follow her on Instagram for endless inspiration or look her up on YouTube.

Hilary Mantel

Born in 1952, Dame Hilary Mantel has won the Booker prize twice.

The first time, in 2009, for Wolf Hall - a historical novel chronicling Thomas Cromwell's rise to power; the second time, in 2012, for her novel Bring up the Bodies

In fact, Hilary has received no fewer than 30 awards and honours and resides in our own locale of Budleigh Salterton, Devon.

There are so many quotes from the Booker Prize winner that I love, but here are two of my favourites:

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be."

I love this because, as a writer myself, I have found myself lost for words, not knowing how to feel, or to express the things I need to on the page. It is all too easy to get sidetracked and allow other people to sap the time you need to write without meaning to. Guarding time and honouring our own heart-space from where our words come is so important, not simply as writers, but as women too. 

“The things you think are the disasters in your life are not the disasters really. Almost anything can be turned around: out of every ditch, a path, if you can only see it.”

These words were a light in a dark tunnel of fear in my life. Being guided to have hope and faith even when things seemed bleak.

Hilary Mantel writes with such universal truth and wisdom that inspire and foster hope.

Reading recommendation:  THE WOLF HALL TRILOGY 

The trilogy charts the riveting historical saga of the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII.

Virginia Woolf

Photograph sourced from Wikipedia 
Virginia Woolf was a British Modernist author born in 1882.

She pioneered the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device and suffered many mental health issues that she stated were due to abuse as a child. She struggled with depression, mood swings and breakdowns that would likely be considered bipolar today.

In terms of her work, she saw great popularity during the 1930s for her modernist views. She was considered controversial in her time and an advocate for feminism. Her works were perhaps even polarising and revolutionary. 

“I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” 
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Reading recommendation: ORLANDO 

An early example of a feminist novel, Orlando tells the tale of a young nobleman in Elizabeth's England who one day awakes to find that he is now a woman. The novel indulges in farce and satire to contemplate the roles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. It ends in 1928, the year The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act was passed, and Orlando, now a wife and mother, looks to a future that holds new hope and promise for women.

Sylvia Plath 

The American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath is known for her use of dark and pagan themes of moon, blood, skulls and nature-based depictions.

She became an icon for women in the feminist movement who saw in her words something of their own experiences as a 'Symbol of blighted female genius.'

The following quote is one that I resonate with. Its words are like an affirmation to believe in yourself.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” 
 ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Reading recommendation: ARIEL 

An overarching theme of Plath’s 1965 poetry collection is femininity. Throughout her poems, she explores what it means to be a woman, using free-flowing verses and images of rebirth to explore the possibilities of womanhood and individuality. 

Mary Wollstonecraft 

This English writer, philosopher and women's rights advocate was born in 1759. Shortly after her death, Wollstonecraft's views were brought to public light and they destroyed her reputation as a writer, but her writings became increasingly important during the feminist movement of the 20th century.

Jane Austen herself may have quietly still supported Wollstonecraft's theories of equality, and many of her characters and comments reflect them.

This quote inspires me to seek emancipation from the societal chains of expectation and gender roles. Celebrating women and women's rights is not about taking our rights back or having power to exert, it's about self esteem and governance, self empowerment, personal freedom - to be seen and valued for the wonderful gifts we have as women. What do you think?

“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

― Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Reading recommendation: Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796)

Wollstonecraft’s moving and personal travel narrative is compiled of 25 letters written whilst travelling in Europe. She journals on a range of topics from reflections on society to philosophical questions on identity, motherhood, and relationships. 

Zadie Smith

Modern writer Zadie Smith is another English novelist who has won many awards including: the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers' First Book Award.

As well as her novels, she also writes powerful and moving essays that reflect on life and how to meet the unexpected.

“The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life. 
― Zadie Smith

Reading recommendation: White Teeth

White Teeth follows two veterans - Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal and English Archie Jones—and their families in London. The novel explores Britain's relationships with people from formerly colonised countries. 

Mary Ann Evans 

Mary Ann Evans is more famously known by her pen name, George Eliot. She was born in 1819 and became one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.

Her career flourished under her male pseudonym as she wanted to write outside of the romance genre. 

Virginia Woolf described Mary's book Middlemarch as: 'One of the few English novels written for grown-up people.'

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” 
― George Eliot

 Reading recommendation: The Mill on the Floss

A heart wrenching and unforgettable story of family, first love and growing up; lead by passionate and fiercely intelligent young female protagonist Maggie Tulliver. 


All of these women wrote incredible novels, essays and poetry. Their words inspire women to believe in themselves while reaching for their full potential, and we owe many of today's freedoms to these creative pioneers. 

Have you read any of these women's poems or books? We'd love to know your thoughts on the lives and works of these inspirational women, so please leave us a comment below. 


Jessica Triana de Ford is Exeter Writers Blog Manager, and co-ordinates content as well as edits submissions. She loves being part of a supportive writing group and being in a position to help support other creatives find the courage to express their ideas. You can find out more and connect with Jessica on
LinkedIn and Twitter.