British Female Essayists

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite British Female Essayists

 1 
Zadie Smith
(Writer, Novelist, Essayist)

Zadie Smith
5
Birthdate: October 25, 1975
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London

Author Zadie Smith was born in London to a British father and a Jamaican mother. Her bestselling debut novel, White Teeth, won numerous awards and catapulted her to fame, while her third novel, On Beauty, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She has also taught fiction at New York University.

 2 
Hilary Mantel
(Writer, Novelist, Essayist, Film critic, Poet lawyer, Literary critic)

Hilary Mantel
4
Birthdate: July 6, 1952
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Glossop

British author Hilary Mantel initially studied law at LSU and then concentrated on her writing career after moving to Botswana with her geologist husband. Her Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, later catapulted her to fame. She divorced and remarried her husband later.

 3 
Jean Rhys
(British Novelist Best Known for Her Novel 'Wide Sargasso Sea')

Jean Rhys
3
Birthdate: August 24, 1890
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Roseau, Dominica
Died: May 14, 1979

Born in Dominica, to a Welsh father and a Creole mother, Jean Rhys grew up to be a celebrated author. She soared to fame with her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which was inspired by the tale of Jane Eyre’s “madwoman in the attic.” She died before completing her memoir.

 4 
Harriet Martineau
(First female sociologist)

Harriet Martineau
3
Birthdate: June 12, 1802
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Norwich, Norfolk, England
Died: June 27, 1876

Regarded by many as the first female sociologist, Harriet Martineau was a prominent 19th-century social theorist, classical economist, and intellectual who penned the iconic work The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte. She was partially deaf and had lost her sense of taste and smell in childhood.

 5 
Hannah More
(Writer, Poet, Essayist)

Hannah More
3
Birthdate: February 2, 1745
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fishponds
Died: September 7, 1833

English religious author Hannah More soared to literary fame with the release of Village Politics, penned under the pseudonym Will Chip. Its popularity made her write an entire series of tracts that educated the poor. She also established clubs and schools, apart from opposing slavery along with the Clapham Sect.

 6 
Vernon Lee
(Writer)

Vernon Lee
2
Birthdate: October 14, 1856
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
Died: February 13, 1935

British author Violet Page wrote under the pseudonym Vernon Lee and dressed without inhibitions. Rumors claimed she was a lesbian, though she never stated so. The poet and critic is best remembered for her work on aesthetics, Belcaro. She was also a skilled harpsichord player and a true-blue feminist.

 7 

Elizabeth Montagu
2
Birthdate: October 2, 1718
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: York, England
Died: August 25, 1800

Part of the 18th-century London intellectual circle, socialite Elizabeth Montagu was a pioneering member of the Bluestockings, a group of women who engaged in evening conversations as a substitute to card-playing. The wife of affluent landowner Edward Montagu, she inherited his riches and later built the Montagu House.

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 8 
Amy Levy
(Poet, Novelist, Essayist)

Amy Levy
2
Birthdate: November 10, 1861
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, Clapham
Died: September 10, 1889

New Woman novelist and poet Amy Levy made history when she became the second Jewish female student at Cambridge and the first Jewish female at Newnham College. Depressed since an early age, she eventually committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide. She is best remembered for her dramatic monologue Xantippe.

 9 
Brigid Brophy
(Novelist)

Brigid Brophy
2
Birthdate: June 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ealing, London, England
Died: August 7, 1995

Author, feminist, and social activist Brigid Brophy mostly dealt with themes such as sexual liberation in her works. One of the first to demand legalization of gay marriage in England, she was also against imposing monogamy. Her Fifty Works of English and American Literature We Could Do Without created furore.

 10 

Alice Meynell
2
Birthdate: October 11, 1847
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Barnes, London, England
Died: November 27, 1922

British writer and poet Alice Meynell was mostly raised in Italy. Her sonnet My Heart Shall Be Thy Garden impressed publisher Wilfrid Meynell, whom she later married. Remembered for works such as Preludes, she used simple words. She was also an ardent supporter of equal suffrage for women.

 11 
Grace Aguilar
(Novelist)

Grace Aguilar
1
Birthdate: June 2, 1816
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 16, 1847

Grace Aguilar was raised in a closed Jewish circle and wasn’t allowed to mingle much outside her family. In spite of the regulations, she grew up to educate people about Jewish culture and history and later penned the iconic domestic novels Home Influence and its sequel, The Mother's Recompense.

 12 

Anne Douglas Sedgwick
1
Birthdate: March 28, 1873
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Englewood, New Jersey, United States
Died: July 19, 1935

Anne Douglas Sedgwick was an American-born British writer. She was the daughter of prominent businessman George Stanley Sedgwick and his wife, Mary. Her novels often explored the contrast in values between Americans and Europeans. The films The Impossible Woman and The Little French Girl were based on her novels. She was married to the British essayist Basil de Sélincourt.  

 13 
Joan Givner
(Writer, Autobiographer, Essayist, Biographer, Children's writer)

Joan Givner
0
Birthdate: September 5, 1936
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Manchester, United Kingdom