Who were the most important American female writers between 1865 to 1912?How these female writers changed history given what was going on at the time?

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celtic1108's profile pic

celtic1108 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Without a doubt, I must say Charlotte Perkins Gillman and Sylvia Plath. Both Gilman and Plath were pioneers of the feminine voice of their generation. Gilman's classic "The Yellow Wall Paper" showed the dangers of feminine restrain and the need of freedom. Plath dealt with a different feminine voice, but nonetheless important to pay attention. Many like to through her aside due to her depression, but if we ignored works from authors whom suffered mental anguish, we would have nothing to read. Plath's poetry is where her voice rings free. It is easy to see the dualistic nature of Plath's mind in her poetry and this is the voice of women. We are both independent and dependent; free and restrained. Plath and Gilman must be read early and often. Yes, I know that Plath is not within the cut dates, but I cannot separate these women in my head; please forgive that.

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I would argue for Kate Chopin but not necessarily in regards to her writing style (even though I appreciate it).  Chopin was willing to address American traditions that very few other writers--male or female--would take up.  Her novel The Awakening challenges social standards regarding the role of the married woman and caused much personal controversy for Chopin.  Similarly, her stories, "Desiree's Baby" and "The Story of an Hour," discuss racial tension in a Southern marriage and a woman feeling so stifled in her marriage that she experiences bliss when she hears of her husband's alleged death.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Although not appreciated in her own time to the degree she is today, I think we would be remiss if we did offer Kate Chopin. From the standpoint of craft, few writers can compare.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I agree with my colleagues.  Emily Dickinson and Edith Wharton are undoubtedly the most prominent and prolific women writers of the period, and Louisa May Alcott was certainly well known--and not everything was as "tame" as her most famous Little Women and Little Men.

Willa Cather was also part of this writing period; and, as a native Nebraskan, I especially appreciate her work in depicting the adjustments and difficulties of immigrants (making a living and leaving a legacy and learning how to be both American and remaining something else) in the Midwest.

I also appreciate Sarah Orne Jewett for her writing/commentary about the industrialization of America (as in "The White Heron").

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I would second the Edith Wharton (Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, etc)...she hasn't been as widely recognized, perhaps as some of the others mentioned here.  You've gotten a great selection of important women writers so far.

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ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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I have to agree with #3 in identifying George Eliot as one of the most influential writers of this period, but unfortunately (but fortunately for me as a Brit) she is not American, so doesn't fit into the grouping asked for. I completely agree that Emily Dickenson is one of the major literary figures of this period though. Her poetry - although never achieving any fame in her life time - is of excellent quality and has resulted in a plethora of posthumous criticism and an enduring appeal that captures so much of the position of women during her time.

Ooops. I was so intrigued by the influence of women in literature, I overlooked the request for American writers. So, with that said, I'd have to agree with you with Emily Dickenson's poetric contributions.

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lynn30k | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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In addition to Emily Dickinson and Louisa May Alcott, I'd add Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Gertrude Stein. I'm not sure if Willa Cather was writing that early.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I have to agree with #3 in identifying George Eliot as one of the most influential writers of this period, but unfortunately (but fortunately for me as a Brit) she is not American, so doesn't fit into the grouping asked for. I completely agree that Emily Dickenson is one of the major literary figures of this period though. Her poetry - although never achieving any fame in her life time - is of excellent quality and has resulted in a plethora of posthumous criticism and an enduring appeal that captures so much of the position of women during her time.

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ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

George Eliot(Mary Ann Evans) 1818-1890. "Known for psychological analysis characteristic of modern fiction."

Famous for writing Adam Bede which was

her first long novel, she described as “a country story—full of the breath of cows and the scent of hay.” Its masterly realism—“the faithful representing of commonplace things”—

I use an excerpt from Adam Bede entitled "Old Leisure", in which she personifies "Leisure" and comments on the negative impact of technology on society and its leisure time.  Just think what she would think if alive at the present given the role of technology today. Her words are still relevant, the sign of a influential writer.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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For readership, posterity and sheer popularity I would say Emily Dickenson and Louisa May Alcott.

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