Aphra Behn (1640?-1689) was a 17th-century writer who challenged expectations of women at the time by writing plays, poetry and novels for profit. Her most famous texts include The Rover, Oroonoko, and The Fair Jilt. Some of her writing was notorious for its sexual themes, but she also got into trouble for writing about politics, a risk for any writer during this period but particularly for a woman. Behn’s prose writing is seen as playing an important part in the development of the novel.
Amelia Bassano Lanier (1569-1645) was the first English woman to publish a book of original poetry. It now appears she may also have been the long-sought major author of the Shakespearean plays.
She was born into a family of Venetian Jews who had been brought to London to be the Court recorder musicians, and who lived as secret Jews or Marranos practicing their faith covertly. From the age of 7 she was educated like a countess in the household headed by Lord Willoughby, the Danish ambassador, and his sister Countess Susan Bertie. About the age of 13 she was given to be an ‘honest courtesan’ to Queen Elizabeth’s half-brother Lord Hunsdon, 43 years her senior. He was the royal falconer, a judge, a general, and the Lord Chamberlain in charge of Court entertainments and the theater industry.