45+ of Your Favorite Groundbreaking Women Writers

This Riot Recommendation of groundbreaking women writers is sponsored by Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean, available now from Grove Press.

The ten brilliant women who are the focus of Sharp came from different backgrounds and had vastly divergent political and artistic opinions. But they all made a significant contribution to American society and ultimately changed the course of the twentieth century, in spite of the men who often undervalued their work. Mixing biography, literary criticism, and cultural history, Sharp is a passionate portrayal of Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Susan Sontag, Hannah Arendt, and others, an engaging introduction to their works, and a testament to how anyone who feels powerless can claim the mantle of writer, and, perhaps, change the world.


Who are the women writers who pop into your head when you think “groundbreaking”? Who blazed a trail? Who started something? Who kicked it up a notch? Below are only some the names you shared when we asked you last week. Your interpretation of the question certainly affects the answer, but let’s all celebrate that these writers are special to Riot readers:

Sandra Cisneros

Ursula K. Le Guin

Jane Austen

P. D. James

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Nnedi Okorafor

Jean Auel

Agatha Christie

Ruth Rendall

Louisa May Alcott

Marguerite Abouet

G. Willow Wilson

Judy Blume

Edna O’Brien

Joan Didion

Julia Alvarez

N. K. Jemisin

Diane Ackerman

Margaret Atwood

Toni Morrison

Louise Erdrich

Sylvia Plath

Dava Sobel

Amy Tan

Mary Shelley

Patricia Cornwell

Zadie Smith

Margaret George

Sheri Tepper

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Cindy Pon

Carmen Maria Machado

Alison Weir

Maya Angelou

Edith Wharton

Isabel Allende

Elizabeth Acevedo

Geraldine Brooks

Harper Lee

Eudora Welty

Angie Thomas

The Brontë sisters

Shirley Jackson

Willa Cather

Jhumpa Lahiri

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