Early women writers, philosophers, scientists and feminist theorists

{Let me know who's missing from this list email me }

{See also women inventors and patents}

Born in the 1300s

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) Mystic and writer

Margery Kempe (c1373-c1440) Mystic

Prioress Juliana Berners (or Barnes or Bernes) (1388-?) Writer on heraldry, hawking and hunting

Born in the 1400s

Gwerful Mechain (fl.1462-1500)Welsh-language poet

Born in the 1500s

Elizabeth, Lady Carew (c1500-?) Playwright

Lady Anne Bacon née Coke (c. 1528-1610) Mother of Sir Francis, gained an international reputation for her learning, and translated from Latin an important contemporary work by Bishop Jewel.

Poet Anne Askew 1521-1546 tortured in the Tower of London and burnt at the stake as a heretic.The First Examinacyon of the Worthy Servant of God Mistresse Anne Askewe and The Lattre Examinacyon of the Worthy Servant of God Mistresse Anne Askewe. Anne was also the author of The Voyce of Anne Askewe out of the 54. Psalme of David and The Balade whych Anne Askewe Made and Sange Whan She Was in Newgate.

Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621) Writer and translator

Elizabeth Tanfield Cary, Lady Falkland (1585-1639) Poet, translator and dramatist

Lady Mary Wroth (1587-1651)Poet

Rachel Speght (1597-?)Poet and feminist theorist

Mother Mary Bonaventure Browne (fl.1610-fl.1670) Historian

Anna Trapnell. Prophetess and feminist

Elizabeth Grymeston (c1563-c1601) Writer

Emilia Lanier (1569-1645) First English woman professional poet

Dorothy Leigh nee Kempe (d.before 1616) Writer of mothers' advice books

Born in the 1600s

Anne Bradstreet (c1612-1672) Poet; first woman published in colonial America

Bathsua Makin (c1600-c1675) Feminist theorist, polyglot; 'England's most learned lady'.

Margaret Fell, later Fox, nee Askew (1614-1702)Feminist and co-founder of the Quakers

Lucy Hutchinson nee Apsley (1620-1681) Biographer and translator from Latin

Lady Jane Cavendish (1621-1669) Poet and playwright

Contance Aston Fowler (c1621-?) Author and anthologist

Lady Anne Halkett nee Murray (1623-1699) Religious writer and autobiographer

Dorothy, Lady Pakington nee Coventry (1623-1679) Religious writer

Mary Fisher (c1623-1698) Quaker preacher

Ann Fanshawe nee Harrison (1625-1680) Memoirist

Elizabeth Egerton, nee Cavendish, Countess of Bridgewater (1626-1663) Writer

Katherine Austen (1629-c1683) Diarist and poet

Mary, Lady Dering nee Harvey (1629-1704) Composer

Anne, Viscountess Conway (1631-1679) Classical scholar and philosopher

Katherine Philips - 'Orinda'(1632-1664) Poet and polyglot

Mary Beale nee Cradock (1633-1699) Portrait painter

Mary Betterton nee Saunderson (1637-1712) Actress (first woman to play Juliet and Lady Macbeth) and singer

Elinor James (1644-1719) Writer and printer of over 90 political broadsheets and pamphlets

Elizabeth Polwheele (c1651-c1691) Playwright

Lady Mary Chudleigh (1656-1710) Feminist poet and essayist

Frances Boothby (fl.1669-1670)Playwright

Sarah Fyge Egerton (1670-1723) Poet

Elizabeth Rowe nee Singer (1674-1737) Poet and novelist

Elizabeth Thomas (1675-1731) Poet

Mrs Catherine Trotter Cockburn (1679-1749) Novelist, dramatist and philosopher

Judith Drake (fl.1696-1723)Writer and medical practitioner

Elizabeth Elstob, The Saxon Nymph (1683-1756) Pioneer of Anglo-Saxon studies; polyglot and feminist

Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673) Poet, philosopher, essayist, playwright, science fiction writer, autobiographer.

Aphra Behn (1640-1680) Dramatist, considered to be the first female professional writer*

Jane Barker (1652-1732) Poet and novelist

Mary de la Riviere Manley (1663-1724) Novelist*

Mary Pix (1660-1720) Novelist and playwright

Anne Finch nee Kingsmill, the Countess of Winchilsea (1661-1720) Poet

Susannah Centlivre (c1667-1723) Actress and playwright

Mary Astell (1668-1731) Feminist theorist, considered to be the first English feminist

Elizabeth Singer Rowe (1674-1737) Writer of poetry and prose

Elizabeth Thomas - 'Corinna'(1675-1731) Poet

Penelope Aubin (c1679-1731) Novelist and translator

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) Writer on the Orient; promoter of inoculation

Eliza Haywood (1693-1756) Novelist, poet, translator, dramatist, actress and publisher*

Sarah, Lady Piers (1697-1714) Poet and political commentator

Katherine Chidley (fl.1616-1653) Businesswoman, writer on religious questions, leader of the Leveller women

* Known as The Fair Triumvirate of Wit

London Evening Post 25 Dec 1739 and 26 April 1757

Born in the 1700s

Mrs Delaney (1700-1788) Artist*

Elizabeth Vesey (1715-1791) Bluestocking*

Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806) Linguist (9 languages), translator, poet and wit*

Elizabeth Montagu (1720-1800) Social reformer, literary critic, writer and philanthropist*

Charlotte Lennox (New York 1720-1804) Dramatist

Mrs Thomas Sheridan (nee Frances Chamberlaine) (1724-1766) Dramatist

Mrs Frances Brooke nee Moore (1724-1789) Dramatist

Hester Chapone nee Kirkham (1727-1801) Writer and translator*

Catherine Macaulay (1731-1791) Historian and feminist writer*

Ann Thickness (1737-1824) Author and musician

Anne Francis (1738-1800) Classics scholar, translator from Hebrew

Lady Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) Lady of Llangollen

Sarah Lewis (fl.1839-1848) Feminist theorist

Lady Mary Hamilton (1739-1816) Writer of all-female Utopia novel Munster Village (1798)

Hester Thrale later Piozzi(1741-1821) Diarist and author*

Sarah Trimmer (1741-1810) Author and reviewer

Anna Seward, the Swan of Lichfield (1742-1809) Poet

Hannah More (1745-1833) Dramatist, poet, feminist, religious writer, charity school founder and philanthropist*

Elizabeth Rose (1747-1815) Scottish clan chief

Anne Seymour Damer (1749-1828) Classical sculptor, scolar of Latin and Greek, cross dresser and lesbian

Mrs Hannah Cowley (1743-1809) Writer, playwright

Miss Marshall (1745-1833) Dramatist

Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)Astronomer

Sophia Lee (1750-1824) writer of opera and novels

Helen Craik (1751-1825) Author

Priscilla Wakefield (1751-1832) Philanthropist, writer, founder of a maternity hosital, a female benefit club and England's first savings bank

Madame D'Arblay nee Frances 'Fanny' Burney (1752-1840) Novelist*

Elizabeth Inchbald nee Simpson (1753-1821) Novelist, dramatist, actress

Anna Yearsley (1753-1806/1820) Playwright

Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831) Lady of Llangollen

Mary Darby Robinson (c1756-1800) Actress, poet, novelist and feminist theorist

Harriet Lee (1756-1851) Novelist

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)Feminist writer

Mary Hays (1760-1843) Novelist and feminist biographer

Anne Plumtree (1760-1818) Translator of German plays and novelist

Helen Maria Williams (1762-1827) Chronicler of the French Revolution, poet and novelist

Mary Berry (1763-1852) Writer

(Mary) Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) Writer

Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) Novelist

Jane Marcet nee Haldimand (1769-1858) Writer of books on elementary religion, botany, chemistry and economics

Mary Ann McCracken (1770-1866) Social reformer

Jane Austen (1775-1817) Novelist

Lady Morgan nee Sydney Owenson (1778-1859)

Mrs Mary Brunton (1778-1819) Novelist

Mary Somerville (1780-1872) Scottish scientist

Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) Prison reformer and philanthropist

Christian Isobel Johnstone nee Todd (1781-1857) Feminist and journalist

Anne Knight (1786-1862) Women's rights campaigner and slavery abolitionist

Mary Russell Mitford (1786--1855) Playwright

Charlotte Elizabeth (Tonna) (1790-1846) Novelist and religious writer

Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Poet

Anna Wheeler nee Doyle (c1785-c1850) Feminist

Caroline Cornwallis (1786-1858) Writer

Anna Brownell Jameson (1794-1860) Writer and analyst of Shakespearean heroines

Frances Wright (1795-1852) Travel writer, lecturer and feminist

Mary Shelley (nee Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin) (1797-1851) Novelist, dramatist, essayist and biographer

Mary Millner (1797-1863) Writer

Mary Anning (1799-1847) Fossil collector and paleontologist

Mary Howitt (1799-1888) Writer and translator

Mrs Gore (1799-1861) Novelist

Susannah Dobson (d.1795) Biographer, translator and playwright

Jane Gomeldon (nee Middleton) (?-c1779) Poet and essayist

*A member of the Blue Stockings, a group of literary ladies 'of wit, knowledge and advanced opinions'.

Born in the 1800s

NB: Many hundreds of women born in the 1800s took some part in the emancipation of women. It is impossible to list them all.

Maria Jane Jewsbury (1800-1833) Poet

Mary [Leman, Gillies, nee Rede] Grimstone (c1800-1851) Social reformer

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) Economist and general writer

Mrs S.C. Hall (1802-1881) Dramatist

Elizabeth Sharples Carlile (1803-1852) Advocate of women's rights

Anna Maria Goldsmid (1805-1889) Linguist, translator, benefactor

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) Poet and writer

Lady Duffering and Countess of Giffod, nee Helen Selina Sheridan (1807-1867) Dramatist

Caroline Norton (1808-1877) Writer and legal pioneer

Caroline Chisholm(1808-1877)

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852)

Harriet Taylor Mill (1807-1858)

Emily Anne Eliza Shirreff (1814-1897)

Caroline Harper Dexter, later Lynch (1819-1884) Lecturer on Rational Dress, co-founder of the Women's Elevation League in 1852.

Lady Anna Gore-Langton (1820-1879)Women's rights campaigner

Florence Nightingale O.M. (1820-1910)

Louisa Twining (1820-1912) Workhouse reformer, benefactor of the poor, sick and old; suffragist

Jane Hume Clapperton (1832-1914) Feminist, suffragist, philosopher and writer, sexual reformer

Anne Jemima Clough (1820-1892)

Mary Catherine Hume-Rothery (1824-1885) Medical reformer

Emma Paterson (1848-1886) founder of Women's Trade Union League

Henrietta Muller (1845-1906) Feminist activist

Eva McLaren (1852-1921)Social reformer

Clementina Black

Ann Richelieu Lamb. Social commentator

Eliza Lynn Linton. Anti-feminist writer

Isa Craig-Knox (1831-1903)

Kathering Hare (1843-1933)

Florence Pomeroy, Viscountess Harberton (18?-1911) President of the Rational Dress movement

Sarah Grand (real name Frances Clarke) (1854-1943) Writer

Annie Sophie Cory (Victoria Crosse)

George Egerton

Ella D'Arcy (1857-1937) Writer

Ella Hepworth Dixon (1857-1932) Novelist and journalist

Mona Caird (1854-1932) Writer

Florence Anne Claxton (fl.1840-1879)

Annie Besant (1847-1933) Political activist

Lady Henry Somerset [Isabella Caroline](1851-1921)

Mary Cozens (1857-1920)

Lady Frances Balfour

Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Elizabeth Wolstenholme

Helen Blackburn

Viscountess Harberton (Florence)(1843-1911)

Florence Balgarnie

Jane E. Taylour. Tireless suffrage speaker: gave 152 lectures by 1873

Despite her romanticised image, Miss Nightingale was a feminist who believed women had all the potential of men but none of the opportunities, and said so clearly in her 1852 essay, 'Cassandra'. Although always depicted as a soft, gentle and feminine nurse, she was in fact a scientist and administrator.

Male champions of women's political rights

William Thompson

Henry Hunt MP

Jacob Bright MP

John Stuart Mill MP (1806-1873)

Dr Richard Pankhurst

Frederick Pethick-Lawrence

Ferdinand Faithfull Begg MP

Novelists who wrote on feminist themes

Jane Austen

Charlotte Bronte

Mary Taylor (1817-1893)

Elizabeth Gaskell

Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot)

Margaret Shurmer Sibthorp

George Meredith

George Gissing

Henrik Ibsen

Thomas Hardy

Bertran Russell

George Bernard Shaw

George Moore


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All pages © Helena Wojtczak 2009. Corrections and additions are warmly welcomed. Email me

Corrections and additional content are warmly welcomed and may be emailed to me at helenas.computer@gmail.com