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The Rise of Female Authors During the Twentieth Century (Prompt 1)

The women literature written during the 20th century presents a unique life experience of American females during that time. Before the turn of this century, there were only a few women authors. Moreover, the majority of them lived a restricted life that affected their work negatively. Towards the end of the 19th century, however, America experienced major changes and so did the female authors. The reconstruction period had just ended and the country was witnessing rapid advancement in science and expansion of the education sector. Similarly, there was increased immigration as more people relocated from other countries to live and work in the United States. As women’s suffrage movement fought to be given the right to vote, other women were also struggling to be accepted by the literary community that at that point was dominated by men. Their fight bore fruit given that by the 20th century, women’s literature had gained immense prominence. There are several factors that led to this development. First, the expansion of education with a major focus on educating girls children as well boys as opposed to male children alone coupled with feminist causes contributed to the high number of female writers that exceeded that of the previous centuries. Moreover, women during this period enjoyed increased opportunities to pursue their professional life, access to publication, and were well acquainted with politics as well as their rights as human beings. The late nineteenth and twentieth centuries gave rise to new female authors seen as confident, leading a professional life, and who were visible as authors.The Rise of Female Authors

A number of female authors studied during the second half of the semester enjoyed more freedom and increased opportunities to study. As a matter of fact, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries presented unprecedented educational opportunities especially for women considering the fact that this particular gender had been denied similar opportunities several decades earlier. By the start of the 20th century, women were playing major roles in education both as students and educators. These advances carried a great meaning not only for the education of girls and women but also for the emergence of the female authors such as Elizabeth Bishop. We learn that Bishop had an opportunity to travel to South America for a writing fellowship. Without a doubt, such opportunities to study contributed significantly to female authorship. Bishop is one of the popular women poets today. The traveling helped Bishop discover her identity and develop an understanding of self by discovering the world that surrounded her. This view is clear in some of her works including the poem “Questions of Travel” in which the author employs brilliant imagery that is coupled with the use of precise language. Bishop uses words that are suggestive of sight.  They include phrases such as “seen the trees,” “see the sun,” “stare at,” “seen them gesturing,” and ‘watching strangers.” Without the opportunity to study abroad, it is likely that Bishop would not have had the opportunity to closely examine her would, and as a result, she would not have been discovered her self. The Rise of Female Authors

In the essay “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” by Alice Walker, the author presents an exploration of the growth and emergence of art and literature among African-American women. It is evident from the essay that before the twentieth century, black women did not always have the pleasure of accessing education. Nonetheless, they still managed to present themselves artistically through other means that included crafts and gardening. In fact, gardening became the alternative expression that Walker’s mother used to express her creative ability. Walker described that garden as “a garden so brilliant with colors, so original in its design, so magnificent with life and creativity” (Walker 218). Moreover, Walker points out that “the artist that was and is my mother showed itself to me only after many years” (Walker 218). She noticed it through the manner in which her mother decorated using flowers the “shabby house” they used to live in. The essay clearly illustrates the author’s preoccupation with the lives of Black African women. By considering the plight of women in the period before the 20th century, the profound changes that happened during the 20th century in the lives of women in general and the lives of female authors in specific become clear. By illustrating the plight of her mother as well as that of Phillis Wheatley, the incredibly adverse conditions that female author faced at that time can be felt. For instance, Wheatley, who may be considered to be one of the most conventional literary foremothers, was simply a slave and therefore did not own even herself. While Alice asserts that a room and sufficient amount of money for personal upkeep were required to enable a woman to become a writer of fiction, Wheatley never had these.The Rise of Female Authors

By the 20th century, however, profound changes had taken place. In society, women were portrayed in a brand-new way. The frail female stereotype that defined them during the previous centuries could no longer apply to this new generation of women. They held jobs, pursued a professional life, actively engaged in political discourses and advanced human rights. Unlike the 19th century female authors such as Emily Dickinson whose works were published posthumously; the 20th-century authors had easy access to the publication. Elizabeth Bishop, for instance, never encountered major obstacles when printing her work. As a matter of fact, Bishop published all but a few of her poems that are often referred to as Bishop’s unpublished poems. They include “Breakfast Song,” “It is Marvelous to Wake up Together”, and “Dear my Compass,” Moreover, there is a possibility that Bishop never intended to have these poems published given that they deal with her sexuality, a central issue in her life that she rarely touched in most of her published poems.

During the 20th century, female authors became more visible. In the essay titled “ “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” Walker remarks that “to be an artist and a black woman, even today, lowers our status in many respects, rather than raises it and yet, artists we will be” (Walker 2016). The statement clearly shows that society discouraged females from expressing themselves artistically even through poetry and literature. Walker implies that black women were the most negatively affected by this perception of female authors in the society. However, things changed towards the end of the 19th century and at the turn of the twentieth century as female authors, both Black, Asian, and White became more visible. They include Hisaye Yamamoto, Toni Morrison, and Gwendolyn Brooks, who is regarded to be among the most influential poets during the last century.The Rise of Female Authors

Their visibility is as a result of the transformations that took place in them as presented by Adrienne Rich in the essay “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision.” In this work, the author presents a number of poems that she wrote at various stages of life. For instance, she composed “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” when she was still a student (Rich, 22). We learn that initially; Rich wrote in traditional style given that she had ventured in a field that was dominated by men at that time. With time, however, she managed to break from this style by forming her own. Therefore, women such as Rich who made important contributions to writing became increasingly visible. Other equally visible female writers include Susan Glaspell. Through her work that included “A Jury of Her Peer,” which is a short story full of drama, the author helped to take women’s fiction to a new height.The Rise of Female Authors

It is evident that the 20th century witnessed the emergence of a new brand of female authors that were both active and influential. It is true that the century witnessed major events such as the Holocaust, the Second World War, the Cold War, and the increased women’s liberation movements that all played a role in redefining the future of female authorship in America. However, it is the profound changes in society and in women’s life that led to the emergence of a new generation of published women authors. The women had more opportunities to pursue education to the highest level possible, a development that helped to equip them with the skills and confidence to become writers. They could pursue a professional life and, therefore, had the resources to publish their work. Moreover, the publication was readily accessible given that society no longer discouraged women from writing. In the end, these female authors increasingly became visible as writers.The Rise of Female Authors





Works Cited

Walker, Alice. “In search of our mothers’ gardens.”

Bishop, Elizabeth, poems (2011)

Rich, Adrienne. “When we dead awaken: Writing as re-vision.” College English 34.1 (1972): 18-30.