Christine de Pizan has a strong claim to being the first professional author of any gender. Born in 1364, she was the daughter of an astrologer at the court of Charles V of France. She grew up in a highly cultural and intellectual society, and could have made use of the royal library. She married a court secretary and had two children by him, but was widowed at just 25. It was at this point that her writing career began, with ballads dedicated to her husband’s memory. These drew the attention and patronage of the French aristocracy. For the rest of her life she would be obliged to continue writing in order to support herself and her family. Continue reading Christine de Pizan
South African writer Olive Schreiner was born in what is now Lesotho on 24 March 1855. The ninth of twelve children born to Rebecca Lyndall and her husband, Gottlob Schreiner (1814–1876), a German-born missionary, she and just six of her siblings survived childhood. In adulthood, she suffered debilitating ill-health, exacerbated for a time by grinding poverty.
For a time, Schreiner earned a living as a governess and teacher, but she devoted her free time to writing The Story of an African Farm, a radical feminist novel informed by her experience of growing up in Africa. As soon as she could afford to, she sailed for Britain where she hoped to train as a doctor. Unfortunately, although she attended lectures at the London School of Medicine for Women, established in 1874 by an association of pioneering women physicians, ill-health prevented her from completing her training. Continue reading Olive Schreiner
Born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928, Maya Angelou was an American author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several other books.
I discovered Maya Angelou’s work in a charity shop in Cornwall, I bought the book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and it was a true gift for me. Throughout my life I have read most of her books and poetry and seen her on TV, and in films. It is her universal voice, that connects with so many of her readers. She details the struggles we all encounter, growing up, sexuality, self esteem, being a strong woman, role models, how to survive mistakes that break your heart, living a creative life, motherhood, and finding love. Continue reading Maya Angelou