Historically, women have been referred to as the second sex. In the traditional patriarchal society, women have taken a backseat in the economy, politics, and literature. For centuries, the voices of women have been muffled, leading to poor representation in art, as men received the spotlight.

How can university faculty and librarians help students think critically about women’s history? Give them the resources they need to study women’s literature.

Today, the rights and roles of women in society continue to evolve and vary considerably across the globe. As we continue working toward gender equality for all, representation in literature is improving as more female authors from the past are studied and more modern women are published.

Gale celebrates and encourages the study of female voices throughout history. With Gale Literature Resource Center, learners can research and think critically about literary classics by female authors as well as fiction and nonfiction by contemporary women authors.


    Women Writers throughout History

    Women’s voices have traditionally been underrepresented, but they have played a significant role in the literary canon. Studying women novelists and poets sheds light on how an entire gender has been marginalized throughout history. From Maya Angelou to Virginia Woolf, feminist literature directly spotlights the inequalities of women to men and advocates for women’s equality across all aspects of society—in fiction, poetry, short stories, essays, and more. Gale Literature Resource Center includes feminist literary criticism and discusses a range of classic books, poetry, and other fiction titles and how they support feminist movements.

    With Gale Literature Resource Center, learners can analyze the impact of feminism on women writers and the female experience, beginning primarily in the nineteenth century until the modern day. Historical fiction, contemporary novels, memoirs, and essays by women give rich insight into many events throughout women’s history, including highlights of first-wave and second-wave feminism. Give students access to explore literature in the context of women’s history, including the first women’s rights convention in New York, the women’s suffrage movement, and other major events. Encourage students to explore how women’s rights and experiences have evolved over time by researching classic and contemporary women’s literature.

Gale Literature Resource Center Highlights

In Gale Literature Resource Center, researchers can find up-to-date analysis, biographical information, overviews, full-text literary criticism, original works of literature, and reviews on more than 160,000 writers in all disciplines, from all time periods, and from around the world.

  • The database includes more than 2,100,000 full-text articles, critical essays, and reviews from over 450 scholarly journals and literary magazines. 
  • Daily content updates provide researchers with the most-current critical approaches and interpretations of authors and works, book reviews, and more.
  • Coverage of a diverse range of writers with a broad array of disciplines, time periods, and backgrounds from around the world delivers a full picture of representation in literature.
  • Primary works in a variety of genres—from science fiction writers, essayists, poets, and others—support close reading and the gathering of textual evidence to provide ample opportunity for reader-response activities. 
  • Materials support interdisciplinary approaches to the humanities, information literacy, and the development of critical-thinking skills.
  • Current and comprehensive literature criticism, biographical information, reviews, and references promote deeper literary understanding.

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Featured Authors: Feminist Literature

Among the thousands of primary sources, criticisms, and articles in Gale Literature Resource Center include works examining the following feminist authors:

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Maya Angelou
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Jane Austen
  • Charlotte Brontë
  • Elena Ferrante
  • Betty Friedan
  • Roxane Gay
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Zora Neale Hurston
  • Hilary Mantel
  • Toni Morrison
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Adrienne Rich
  • Zadie Smith
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Alice Walker
  • Jeanette Winterson
  • Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Virginia Woolf 
  • Malala Yousafzai

Want to explore all that Gale Literature Resource Center has to offer?

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Did You Know?

Below are a few of the many accomplishments of female literary figures throughout history. Gain access to the full biographies of countless influential women writers in Gale Literature Resource Center.

  • Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.1
  • Betty Friedan helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW), which supports feminist ideals and societal change in the United States.2
  • Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway.3
  • Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is often cited as the first Black feminist novel of the twentieth century.4
  • Toni Morrison was the first Black woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.5
  • Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Age of Innocence.6
  • Mary Wollstonecraft is considered one of the earliest feminists, with her publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792 advocating for women’s equality.7
  • Malala Yousafzai cofounded the Malala Fund to promote education for young girls. In 2014, she also became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.8

Resource Spotlight:

Introduction to “Women in Modern Literature” from Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism (Vol. 94)

“Gender issues have been a topic in written literature since ancient times, when Greek poets such as Sappho and Homer wrote of female sexuality, marriage, and emotional bonds between women and their families, and philosophers questioned, and usually denigrated, the role of women in society. Christianity brought to literature the dichotomous virgin-whore—or ‘good girl-bad girl’—archetype, modeled after the seemingly contradictory figures of the Virgin Mary and the Biblical prostitute Mary Magdalene, which has survived to the present day in literature and popular culture. In the Victorian period female literary paradigms began to shift as more women openly published their writings and women’s emancipation became a major societal issue. At one end of the spectrum was the Victorian ‘Angel of the House,’ which placed women in the position of helpmate, homemaker, and superior social conscience, but which ultimately limited women’s options to the realm of home and occasional volunteer work. At the other end was the newly emerging liberated woman who candidly demanded her right to education, suffrage, and the single life but who was generally treated as an outcast by respectable society and still could not vote, inherit property, or easily cultivate a career. Both figures appeared in and were scrutinized by the literature of the time. In the early twentieth century, as the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud became widely read, literature by and about women took on an interiorized dimension. Many later feminist thinkers considered Freud’s ideas about women misogynistic and claimed that they said more about Freud’s own insecurities and neuroses than about the actual state of women’s psyches, but it cannot be denied that concepts such as castration anxiety, penis envy, and Oedipal and Electra complexes strongly influenced Western notions about women, particularly in literature, throughout the twentieth century. Literature by and about women in Latin American, Caribbean, Asian, and African countries has tended to focus on many of the same issues, in addition to more fundamental questions of human rights and the effects of colonization and slavery on women. In the modern feminist era—particularly after women earned the right to vote in many Western countries and gained greater access to education and the workplace—literature has concentrated increasingly on women’s changing roles and continued obstacles to equality.”9


  1. Deanovich, Connie. “Brooks, Gwendolyn (1917–2000).” World Poets, edited by Ron Padgett, 143–151. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2000. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.
  2. Brewer, Mary F. “Betty (Naomi) Friedan.” Twentieth-Century American Cultural Theorists, edited by Paul Hansom. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 246. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2001. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.
  3. Lorraine (Vivian) Hansberry.” Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2003. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.
  4. Jordan, Jennifer. “Feminist Fantasies: Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 7, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 105–117. Quoted in Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Roger Matuz and Cathy Falk. Vol. 61. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1990. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.
  5. Lubiano, Wahneema. “Morrison, Toni (1931– ).” African American Writers, 2nd ed., edited by Valerie Smith, 581–597. Vol. 2. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.
  6. Edith (Newbold Jones) Wharton.” Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2005. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.
  7. Duckworth, Alistair M. “Mary Wollstonecraft.” British Novelists, 1660–1800, edited by Martin C. Battestin, Gale, 1985. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 39. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.
  8. Bargeron, Eric. “Malala Yousafzai.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 403. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2017. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.
  9. Women in Modern Literature.” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by Jennifer Baise. Vol. 94. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2000. Gale Literature Resource Center, accessed September 30, 2022.