Forgotten Feminists: Three powerful women who have contributed to the literary sphere and impacted women’s rights

Image of Gloria Anzaldúa by Annie F. Valva

Until I took my women writers course, I didn’t realize just how many of the authors I had interacted with in my courses at Boise State were male and white. Luckily, in upper-division classes, there is a slightly more diverse syllabus of authors — though there are still so many incredible women authors I would love to learn more about. 

Here are just a few incredibly talented women writers who have slipped through the cracks of literary history. 

Gloria Anzaldúa

Gloria E. Anzaldua was a Chicana writer, feminist and gay rights activist who explored feelings of cultural isolation and “unhomeliness” – the concept of feeling excluded due to being a part of multiple cultures. Anzaldua’s 1987 work “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” explores the reclaiming of the word “chicana” which was historically used negatively in reference to Mexican-American individuals as well as the gendered nature of all languages, but specifically in reference to Spanish.

Other influential Anzaldua works include “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color” published in 1981 and “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza” published in 1987. Anzaldua has received several literary awards such as the Sappho Award of Distinction, the Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award and many more. In her work Anzaldua focuses on the idea of “borderland” or existing in a space between cultures, coupled with the intersectionality of being a lesbian woman, and establishing a sense of identity for yourself. 

“I will have my voice. Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue — my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.” -” How To Tame A Wild Tongue”

Louise Erdrich

I know this is not an underground author whatsoever but I hadn’t read her work until very recently and want to save others from the fate of a life without Erdrich’s work. Pulitzer prize winner Louise Erdrich is a part of The Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa indigenous community and is known for her powerful and poignant storytelling.

Perhaps her most notable work “The Sentence” was published in 2021. This incredible novel explores the intersectionality of being indigenous, a woman and the scrutiny of being formerly incarcerated. 

Erdrich does a phenomenal job of interweaving issues facing indigenous communities into a fast-paced and addictively witty plot. Eldrich’s work “Future Home of the Living God” is a commentary on the current state of reproductive rules and regulations placed on an individual’s right to choose. 

The work sat unfinished until Trump’s election in 2016 which reignited Erdrich’s passion for the piece. In an interview with the New York Times, Eldrich highlighted that the fight “for women’s rights is an unrelenting battle,” and that she “saw that [her] daughters might have to live with the steady erosion of human progress.” I highly recommend Eldrich’s work and hope to see her on more syllabi in the future. 

“The world was filling with ghosts. We were a haunted country in a haunted world.” – “The Sentence.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, PEN Open Book Award and countless others, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is known for her novels “Americanah” and “We Should All Be Feminists” which both contain themes of identity and life experience as a Black woman. 

“Americanah” focuses more specifically on entering America’s education system as a Black woman from Nigeria attends Wellson College, while “We Should All Be Feminists” breaks down the ways in which the patriarchy is harming both women and men.

Adidichie’s work discusses invaluable issues and promotes crucial conversations regarding the intersectionality of race and gender. Adidichie’s Ted Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” illustrates the power that literature and spoken-word stories hold as they give us merely a snapshot of superficial and oftentimes stereotypical impressions of an individual and community. At 13.1 million views on YouTube, this talk has been an introduction for many people to Adidche and her incredible work. 

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.” – “We Should All Be Feminists.” 

These women are just a few examples of figures who added so much richness and depth to the literary sphere through their rich writing and powerful storytelling. Their contributions to the women’s rights movement have been invaluable and are proof that oftentimes the pen truly is mightier than the sword. 

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