The Profound Contributions of Women to Literature: a Tribute for International Women's Day

Image obtained via Wikimedia Commons

"I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman." - Virginia Woolf.
    Virginia Woolf, the writer whose work is ubiquitous in all aspects of my life - in my reading, in my writing, in my feeling - encapsulates the role of women in literature with this quote; think of the many writers whose identities remain unknown: the famed "Homer," inventor of the dactylic hexameter (epic meter) and author of "The Odyssey," "The Iliad," and perhaps even the "Homeric Hymns"; the unknown author of Gilgamesh, the work often regarded as the first work of fiction; even the likely numerous contributors to the Old Testament, whose names remain unknown to the most educated historians.
    It has been theorized that, especially with Homer, among the authors of these works were women, working alongside men or by themselves to create the spectacular literature that has survived and maintained popularity through millennia. In the case that these theories are true, women will have created the books whose influence is responsible for the Western canon itself.
    Yet, "Anon" is only a small slice in that great pie of female literary excellence. Venturing to the many female authors whose literature withstood the stresses of time, we find that they are even more numerous: George Eliot and her "Middlemarch"; Jane Austen and her "Pride and Prejudice," "Mansfield Park," "Sense and Sensibility," and "Emma"; Mary Shelley and her "Frankenstein"; Toni Morrison and her "Beloved"; Harper Lee and her "To Kill a Mockingbird"; Charlotte Bronte and her "Jane Eyre"; Edith Warton and her "Age of Innocence"; Ayn Rand and her "Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged"; among the insurmountable numbers of works that I have failed to mention.
    I will say: if you have yet to read even a few of the books on that list, then you have yet to read. Among that list are some of the most influential pieces of literature ever created; they would be gold - if gold were even more lustrous and aureate than it is now.
    Let us not forget about the female poets, either! Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Sappho (ancient Greece!), and Gabriela Mistral, to name only a few!
    Let us not forget about the female essayists, either! Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, among, of course, many others.
    Women's influence on our literature - even on the western canon itself - cannot be undermined or misrepresented. It is, simply put, profound; it is as obvious as the repetitious waves of Virginia Woolf's "The Waves," as clear as Howard Roark's individualism in Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead," and as unquestionable as Elizabeth Barrett Browning's love for her partner in Sonnet 43 of her "Sonnets From the Portuguese" ("How do I love thee? Let me count the ways").
    The influence of female authors upon me, too, cannot be undermined or misrepresented. Take Virginia Woolf, for example: I have modeled my writing after hers, incorporating that stream of consciousness style that is ever-present in "The Waves" and, to a lesser extent, in "To the Lighthouse." Her emotion, which I also model in my writing, is made evident in the descriptions of the sun, the trees, the waves, and the birds at the beginning of "The Waves" and in the animated movements of that fleeting moth in "The Death of the Moth." Her writing, above any other writer or figure I have ever come to know, has evolved my writing, my emotion, my life, into a realm it had not entered before: that of enlightenment and of emotion by detail.
    Therefore, out of honor to the female writers and the many other women who have changed my life, Happy International Women's Day to all! Let us embrace the wonderful achievements of our female writers, historians, librarians, lawyers, moms, fighters, politicians, police officers, friends, wives, sisters, cousins, aunts, kindred, and all the other brilliant women in our lives!