Women Essayists

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Throughout history, there have been many women essayists who have made significant contribution to the field. The list includes many familiar and great female essayists such as Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Simone de Beauvoir, Anais Nin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Sandra Cisneros.The women essayists featured in this list are from United States, United Kingdom, Canada & Australia and many more countries.
Vote for Your Favourite Women Essayists
 1 
Margaret Atwood
(Poet, Novelist, Literary Critic & Environmental Activist)
Margaret Atwood
5
Birthdate: November 18, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ottawa, Canada

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet and novelist. Her works encompass themes, such as religion and myth, climate change, and gender and identity. An award-winning writer, many of Atwood's works have been made into films and television series; her work, The Handmaid's Tale, has had several adaptations. Perhaps, Margaret Atwood's most important contribution is her invention of the LongPen device.

 2 
Susan Sontag
(Writer and Filmmaker, Best Known for her Essay 'Notes on 'Camp')
Susan Sontag
4
Birthdate: January 16, 1933
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: December 28, 2004
Susan Sontag is best known for her essay anthologies such as Against Interpretation and her novels such as In America. She wrote about diverse issues such as human rights, photography, AIDS, and leftist beliefs, and also visited war-torn areas. The National Book Award-winning author was also openly bisexual. 
 3 
Joyce Carol Oates
4
Birthdate: June 16, 1938
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lockport, New York, United States
 4 
Joan Didion
(Screenwriter, Novelist, Journalist, Writer, Essayist)
Joan Didion
4
Birthdate: December 5, 1934
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sacramento, California, United States
 5 
Zadie Smith
(Writer, Novelist, Essayist)
Zadie Smith
6
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.

 6 
Fran Lebowitz
(Writer Known for Her Sardonic Social Commentary on American Life and Her Defiant Grouchiness and Wit)
Fran Lebowitz
4
Birthdate: October 27, 1950
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Morristown, New Jersey, United States

Author and public speaker Fran Lebowitz is best known for her book The Fran Lebowitz Reader, which combined the two books Metropolitan Life and Social Studies. She also gained fame with her 2021 Netflix docuseries Pretend It's a City. Openly lesbian, she has often spoken about feminism, politics, and AIDS.

 7 
Anais Nin
(French-Born American Novelist, Diarist and Short Story Writer)
Anais Nin
6
Birthdate: February 21, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France
Died: January 14, 1977

French-Cuban-American diarist, essayist, and novelist Anais Nin wrote several volumes of journals, erotica, novels, critical studies, essays, and short stories. Her journals and diaries are among her most studied works. She had a deep interest in psychoanalysis and studied it extensively with René Allendy and Otto Rank. Critics consider her one of the finest writers of female erotica.

 8 
Katherine Anne Porter
(Journalist, Essayist, Writer, Novelist)
Katherine Anne Porter
4
Birthdate: May 15, 1890
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Indian Creek, Texas, U.S.
Died: September 18, 1980
 9 
Sarah Vowell
(Author of Seven Nonfiction Books on American History and Culture)
Sarah Vowell
4
Birthdate: December 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States

Bestselling author and essayist Sarah Vowell is known for her expertise in American history and her books such as Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes. She is also a regular on the radio program This American Life and has voiced Violet in the animated film The Incredibles.

 10 
Flannery O'Connor
4
Birthdate: March 25, 1925
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Savannah, Georgia, United States
Died: August 3, 1964
 11 
Arundhati Roy
(Novelist, Writer, Screenwriter, Essayist)
Arundhati Roy
4
Birthdate: November 24, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Assam

Apart from her bestselling books such as The God of Small Things, Man Booker Prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy is also known for her left-wing political activism. Born to a Syrian Christian mother and an Indian Hindu father, Roy had initially studied architecture and worked as a script writer.

 12 
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.

 13 
Sandra Cisneros
3
Birthdate: December 20, 1954
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago
 14 
Adrienne Rich
(American poet)
Adrienne Rich
3
Birthdate: May 16, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died: March 27, 2012
 15 
Mary Karr
(Poet)
Mary Karr
3
Birthdate: January 16, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: East Texas
 16 
Olga Tokarczuk
(Polish Writer Best Known for Her Novel 'Flights' and Winner of 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Olga Tokarczuk
3
Birthdate: January 29, 1962
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sulechów, Poland

Olga Tokarczuk is a Polish writer and public intellectual. She is one of the most critically acclaimed authors of her generation in Poland. She was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first female Polish writer to receive the honor. Her works have been translated into almost 40 languages. She is also a clinical psychologist. 

 17 
Cheryl Strayed
4
Birthdate: September 17, 1968
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Spangler, Pennsylvania, U.S.
 18 
Elif Shafak
(Writer)
Elif Shafak
3
Birthdate: October 25, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France

Known widely as Turkey’s most popular female author, Elif Shafak is best known for her Booker-shortlisted bestseller 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. A fierce advocate for gender equality and LGBTQ rights, she is also a 3-time TEDGlobal speaker. She now lives in London, on a self-imposed exile.

 19 
Sylvia Browne
(Essayist, Psychic)
Sylvia Browne
4
Birthdate: October 19, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kansas City
Died: November 20, 2013
 20 
Barbara Kingsolver
(Novelist, Poet, Essayist)
Barbara Kingsolver
3
Birthdate: April 8, 1955
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Annapolis, Maryland, United States
 21 
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.

 22 
Jamaica Kincaid
(Antiguan-American Novelist, Essayist, Gardener and Gardening Writer)
Jamaica Kincaid
3
Birthdate: May 25, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda
 23 
Amrita Pritam
(Indian Author Who Wrote in Punjabi and Hindi and is Considered One of History's Foremost Female Punjabi Writers)
Amrita Pritam
4
Birthdate: August 31, 1919
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gujranwala, Pakistan
Died: October 31, 2005

Amrita Pritam was an Indian poet, essayist, and novelist who wrote in Hindi and Punjabi languages. She is widely regarded as the first major female Punjabi poet and the leading Punjabi-language poet of the 20th century. In 1956, she was honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award, becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious award.

 24 
Rebecca Solnit
3
Birthdate: June 24, 1961
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bridgeport, Connecticut Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
 25 
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.

 26 
Wisława Szymborska
(Polish Poet, Essayist, Translator and Winner of 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Wisława Szymborska
3
Birthdate: July 2, 1923
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kórnik, Poland
Died: February 1, 2012

Wisława Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist, and translator. In 1996, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her poetry. Her works have been translated into numerous languages, including English, Arabic, Japanese, Hebrew, and Chinese. She also translated French literature, especially Baroque poetry, into Polish. She actively wrote until her death at the age of 88. 

 27 
Louise Glück
4
Birthdate: April 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York, United States
 28 
Lou Andreas-Salomé
(Russian Novelist, Essayist and Psychoanalyst)
Lou Andreas-Salomé
3
Birthdate: February 12, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: February 5, 1937

Russian-born German author Lou Andreas-Salomé apparently rejected renowned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s marriage proposal and then married a professor instead. A skilled psychoanalyst, she was also close to Rainer Maria Rilke and Sigmund Freud. She was one of the first to offer a psychoanalytic perspective to female sexuality.

 29 
Kathy Acker
(Author)
Kathy Acker
3
Birthdate: April 18, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: November 30, 1997
 30 
Eileen Chang
(Chinese-born American Novelist, Essayist, and Screenwriter)
Eileen Chang
3
Birthdate: September 30, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Shanghai, China
Died: September 8, 1995

Zhang Ailing was a Chinese-born American novelist, essayist, and screenwriter. A realist and modernist writer, Chang is credited with writing the scripts of many successful films like Miserable at Middle Age, Qing Chang Ru Zhan Chang, and Jin Suo Ji. Zhang Ailing is also credited with influencing and inspiring many creative writers in Taiwan, including Chu T’ien-wen and Yuan Chiung-chiung.

 31 
Joy Harjo
(Poet)
Joy Harjo
3
Birthdate: May 9, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
 32 
Marilynne Robinson
3
Birthdate: November 26, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sandpoint, Idaho, US
 33 
Muriel Spark
(Writer Best Known for Her Satire and Wit with Which the Serious Themes of Her Novels Are Presented)
Muriel Spark
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: April 13, 2006

Known for her novels such as Memento Mori and The Driver’s Seat, Scottish author Muriel Spark was also one of the rare female editors of her time when she was associated with the Poetry Review. Though born to a Jewish father, she later converted to Catholicism.

 34 
Marguerite Yourcenar
(French Novelist, Essayist and First Woman Elected to the 'Académie Française')
Marguerite Yourcenar
3
Birthdate: June 8, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: December 17, 1987

Belgian-born French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar, who later settled in the US, is best remembered for her award-winning works such as Mémoires d'Hadrien. She was also the first female member to be elected to the Académie Française. She used an anagram of her original last name, Crayencour, as her surname.

 35 
C. J. Cherryh
3
Birthdate: September 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
 36 
Nawal El Saadawi
(Egyptian Feminist Activist Who is Credited with Founding the 'Arab Women's Solidarity Association')
Nawal El Saadawi
3
Birthdate: October 22, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kafr Tahlah, Egypt
Died: March 21, 2021

Nawal El Saadawi was an Egyptian feminist activist, writer, and physician. Described as Egypt's most radical woman, Saadawi wrote many books pertaining to the subject of women in the Muslim world. She is also credited with founding the Arab Women's Solidarity Association. Nawal El Saadawi won several prestigious awards, including the Seán MacBride Peace Prize and the Inana International Prize.

 37 
Lydia Davis
(Writer)
Lydia Davis
3
Birthdate: July 15, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Northampton, Massachusetts, United States
 38 
Janet Frame
(Novelist, Essayist, Poet, Writer, Short Story Writer)
Janet Frame
3
Birthdate: August 28, 1924
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dunedin
Died: January 29, 2004

Initially trained to be a schoolteacher, Janet Frame later soared to fame with her short stories, poems, and her 3-part memoir, including An Angel at My Table. Misdiagnosed as schizophrenic, she spent almost a decade in mental hospitals. She wrote most of her works while in psychiatric care.

 39 
Bebe Moore Campbell
3
Birthdate: February 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: November 27, 2006
 40 
Linda Moulton Howe
(Journalist, documentary film maker best known for her work as a ufologist)
Linda Moulton Howe
3
Birthdate: January 20, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Boise, Idaho, United States
 41 
Annie Dillard
3
Birthdate: April 30, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
 42 
Laila Lalami
(Novelist)
Laila Lalami
3
Birthdate: 1968 AD
Birthplace: Rabat, Morocco
 43 
Emily Gould
(Writer, Essayist, Children's writer)
Emily Gould
3
Birthdate: October 13, 1981
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Silver Spring
 44 
Natalia Ginzburg
(Auhtor Known for His Works 'Family Sayings' and 'The Advertisement')
Natalia Ginzburg
3
Birthdate: July 14, 1916
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Palermo, Italy
Died: October 7, 1991

Natalia Ginzburg was an Italian author who dealt with sensitive subjects like politics and family relationships during the Second World War. Ginzburg's works were often translated into English for readers in the USA and the UK. Over the course of her illustrious career, Natalia Ginzburg won several prestigious awards, such as the Bagutta Prize and Strega Prize.

 45 
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.

 46 
Han Suyin
(Best Known for Her Novel 'A Many-Splendoured Thing' and 'The Crippled Tree')
Han Suyin
3
Birthdate: September 12, 1916
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Xinyang, China
Died: November 2, 2012

Born to a Chinese father and a Belgian mother in China, Han Suyin initially studied medicine and also worked as a midwife. During her medical practice in Hong Kong, she was in a relationship with a married Australian war reporter, which was the basis of her iconic novel A Many-Splendoured Thing.

 47 
Assia Djebar
(Author)
Assia Djebar
3
Birthdate: June 30, 1936
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cherchell
Died: February 6, 2015

Assia Djebar was an Algerian novelist, translator, and filmmaker. She was a staunch feminist, and her works mostly revolved around the issues faced by women. She was fiercely anti-patriarchal and anti-colonial. In 2005, she became the first writer from the Maghreb to be elected to the Académie française. She received the 1996 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. 

 48 
Taslima Nasrin
(Bangladeshi-Swedish Writer Known for Her Writing on Women’s Oppression and Criticism of Religion)
Taslima Nasrin
3
Birthdate: August 25, 1962
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mymensingh, Bangladesh

Taslima Nasrin is a Bangladeshi-Swedish writer, feminist, physician, activist, and secular humanist. An internationally recognized author, Nasrin is renowned for expressing feminist views and her criticisms of religions. Taslima Nasrin is a recipient of many prestigious awards such as the Sakharov Prize, Freethought Heroine Award, and Erwin Fischer Award.

 49 
Ingeborg Bachmann
(Austrian Poet and Author Best Known for Her Novel 'Malina')
Ingeborg Bachmann
3
Birthdate: June 25, 1926
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Klagenfurt, Austria
Died: October 17, 1973

Ingeborg Bachmann completed her PhD and worked as an editor and scriptwriter before plunging into full-time writing. The Gruppe 47 member was known for depicting the trauma of women characters who had failed in relationships. She is best remembered for her poems and her lyrical novel Malina.

 50 
Emilia Pardo Bazán
(Writer Known for Introducing Naturalism Into Spanish Literature)
Emilia Pardo Bazán
3
Birthdate: September 16, 1851
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: A Coruña, Spain
Died: May 12, 1921

Spanish countess and novelist Emilia Pardo Bazán had initially gained fame with the essay The Critical Issue. She was an advocate of naturalism and free will. Known for novels such as The House of Ulloa, she also taught Romance literature and was divorced by her husband because of her literary success.