Sunday, November 18, 2012

An American Feminist Literary Canon - A Guest Post by Anna

American feminist writing is often not given its due alongside the writing of other social justice movements - writing by Martin Luther King and Rachel Carson, for example. I think it is important to look at feminist writing not only within the context of its time but as part of a movement no less grand and noble than the movements for other types of social justice, such as racial equality and environmentalism. Therefore, I have made this canon of American feminist writing, which I have taken from my larger "feminist literary canon" series. 

Judith Sargent Murray (1751–1820) was an early American advocate for women's rights, an essayist, playwright, poet, and letter writer. In her landmark essay "On the Equality of the Sexes," published in the Massachusetts Magazine in 1790, she claimed that women’s seeming inferiority to men was due to their lack of education, not any inherent defect. Alice Rossi's book The Feminist Papers starts with Murray's essay. The essay can be read in its entirety in English here

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850) was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century, published in 1845, is considered the first major feminist work in the United States.
Some scholars have suggested Woman in the Nineteenth Century was the first major women's rights work since  Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792, beginning with a comparison between the two women made by Mary Ann Evans (pen name George Eliot) in her 1855 essay "Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft.”  
A shorter version of the Woman in the Nineteenth Century had been published in 1843 in serial form for the Transcendentalist magazine The Dial, which Fuller edited; it was then called "The Great Lawsuit: Man 'versus' Men, Woman 'versus' Women." The book declared that marriage should be a union between two independent and self-sufficient individuals, rather than having the woman dependent on the man. Fuller thought that equality between men and women would enable them to share a divine and transcendental love.
Woman in the Nineteenth Century can be read in its entirety in English here

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 –1902) was a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in America, as well as an advocate for divorce reform, birth control, women's parental and custody rights, women’s property rights, and women’s employment and income rights. She was the main writer of the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, which was presented at the first American women's rights convention, held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York.  
It was based on the form of the Declaration of Independence, and caused much controversy, particularly with its support of women’s suffrage, which even many women’s rights supporters thought was too radical and would damage other causes such as women’s property rights. Furthermore, her controversial publishing of The Woman's Bible in 1898 (a feminist criticism of the Bible, written by herself and a “Revising Committee”) alienated many religious suffragists, although criticism of sexism in the Bible would become more popular in the 1970s, when much of Stanton’s writing was rediscovered. Stanton declared in The Woman's Bible that the Bible "in its teachings degrades Women from Genesis to Revelations." However she and the other contributors found some things to admire in the Bible, particularly some of the women in the Old Testament.  
The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions can be read in its entirety in English here: 
The Woman's Bible can be read in its entirety in English here

Kate Chopin, born Katherine O'Flaherty (1850 –1904) was an American author of short stories and novels. She is considered by many to be a forerunner of feminist authors of the 20th century. 
Her short story "The Story of An Hour" (1894) is particularly remarkable in that it shows a woman made happy by her husband’s death due to the oppression of her marriage, a very daring statement for the time. The Awakening (1899) is also a story of a woman made unhappy by her marriage, which features frank (for its time) depictions of female sexual desire, even outside of marriage. Reviews ranged from condemnation to praise, though the public reaction was almost completely opposed. 
She never published another novel, and had difficulties even publishing short stories, but The Awakening is now considered a landmark of feminist literature. Furthermore, Chopin was recognized as one of the leading writers of her time within a decade of her death. The Story of An Hour can be read in its entirety in English here
The Awakening can be read in its entirety in English here

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (July 3, 1860 – August 17, 1935) was a prominent American sociologist, writer, and lecturer for social reform. Her best remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) which she wrote after a severe bout of postpartum psychosis. It concerns a woman who is confined to a room for three months for the sake of her health, and who becomes insane as a result; Gilman herself had endured the then-popular “rest cure” as a treatment for her post-partum psychosis, and felt she had come near to losing her own sanity. She sent Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who had prescribed the rest cure for her, a copy of the story. She claimed he had changed his methods as a result of this, but in fact (possibly unknown to her) he had not.  
Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote many other feminist works which have not been as popular as The Yellow Wallpaper. Her greatest work is often considered to be Women and Economics (1898), in which she described and opposed women’s financial dependence on men. In order to end this, she was one of the first to support the professionalization of housework, to be done by housekeepers and cooks for money rather than by mothers for nothing. She also suggested cooperative kitchens in city apartment buildings where cooking would be shared rather than being the private chore of each family. However, she still insisted that motherhood was “the common duty and the common glory of womanhood,” and that women would choose “professions compatible with motherhood.”  
Women and Economics received overwhelmingly positive reviews and caused Gilman to be considered the leading intellectual of the women’s movement. It was even compared favorably to The Subjection of Women. However, Gilman did not call herself a feminist, as she was very uncomfortable with the ideas of sexual liberation that had become an important part of feminist thought. The Yellow Wallpaper can be read in its entirety in English here:
Women and Economics can be read in its entirety in English here:

Valerie Saiving Goldstein (1921-1992) was a feminist theologian. She is best known for "The Human Situation: A Feminine View"  (1960), in which she criticized the Christian focus on pride as a sin, noting that many women struggle much more with feelings of self-doubt.
She noted that much of Christian theology was written by men and based on male experience, and might not apply to women, and that women would have to write out their own theology. Her essay had a strong influence on other feminist theologians. Mary Daly for example, cited her in her own book The Church and the Second Sex, while Judith Plaskow, a Jewish feminist theologian, both published a dissertation on Saiving's essay (entitled “Sex, Sin and Grace: Women’s Experience and the Theologies of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich”) and reproduced the 1960 article in her own anthology Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion.  
"The Human Situation: A Feminine View” can be read in its entirety in English here:"human+situation:+a+feminine+view"&h

Betty Friedan (February 4, 1921 - February 4, 2006) was a leading feminist activist. Her best-known book is The Feminine Mystique (1963), which is widely credited with sparking the beginning of the second-wave feminist movement in the United States. In it she criticized the fact that women were encouraged to see housewifery as a career, and declared that women needed a purpose in life separate from their children and husbands. She also praised what we would now consider the first wave of feminism, which won the vote for women, and decried how popular culture had made feminism seem ridiculous and cold-hearted, or alternately insisted that all battles for women had been won.  
The Feminine Mystique was extremely influential in the feminist movement, although it was criticized by later waves of feminism for its focus on upper-class housewives to the exclusion of the problems of other women. Still, the fact that most women were not fulfilled by full-time housework and should not be ashamed of their career dreams was a true and important point.  The Feminine Mystique  is also criticized for its homophobia – Friedan believed that homosexuality was at least in part caused by overbearing mothers – but it should be noted that this was an entirely mainstream idea at the time. 
Friedan is also noted for co-writing"The National Organization for Women's Statement of Purpose" (1966) with feminist and civil rights activist Pauli Murray (1910-1985). Murray and Friedan both helped found the organization and Friedan was its first president. "The National Organization for Women's Statement of Purpose" is notable for its idealism; it declared that the goal of the National Organization for Women was “to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men,” and elaborated that women should have equal rights and responsibilities with men in all fields.

Chapter 1 of  The Feminine Mystique  can be read in its entirety in English here:

Chapter 2 of  The Feminine Mystique  can be read in its entirety in English here:

The“National Organization for Women's Statement of Purpose” can be read in its entirety in English here:

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (1960-1970s) The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee emerged from a series of student meetings held by civil rights activist Ella Baker in 1960. The “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Position Paper: Women in the Movement” (1964), was written and submitted anonymously at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee meeting in Waveland, Mississippi. It denounced the sexism of the Committee and called for the civil rights movement to “start the slow process of changing values and ideas so that all of us gradually come to understand that this is no more a man's world than it is a white world.” The “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Position Paper: Women in the Movement” can be read in its entirety in English here:

Casey Hayden (born Sandra Cason) and Mary King (birthdate unknown, both still alive) are left-wing activists. Their most noted feminist writing is “Sex and Caste – A Kind of Memo” (1965) which was based on their experiences as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee volunteers. It is widely regarded as one of the first documents of the emerging second-wave feminist movement. In it they described and denounced the sexism of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was common in left-wing movements at the time, and woke many women up to the fact that while they were ostensibly working for freedom and justice, they themselves were being oppressed.
“Sex and Caste – A Kind of Memo” can be read in its entirety in English here:

Gloria Steinem (born 1934) is an feminist, journalist, and political activist, and is widely known as a spokesperson for feminism.  In 1969 she published the article, "After Black Power, Women's Liberation" which, along with her early support of abortion rights, brought her to national fame as a feminist leader. This article describes early feminist actions (such as demonstrations in favor of coed dorms and against bridal fairs) and how sexism in left wing movements led to second-wave feminism as a separate and distinct movement, and sparked women thinking of themselves as a minority group, just as African-Americans are. The article concludes, however, with the assurance that "women's liberation will be men's liberation too", perhaps an acknowledgement that if feminism could not be made appealing to the men in charge it would not advance.

"After Black Power, Women's Liberation" can be read in its entirety in English here:

Naomi Weisstein (born 1939) is a psychology professor, and a co-founder of American Women in Psychology,  now Division 35 of the American Psychological Association.  
She is probably best known for her pioneering essay, "Kinder, Küche, Kirche as Scientific Law: Psychology Constructs the Female," which was first published in 1968, and was read by activists throughout the feminist movement, as well as psychologists. The title is taken from the German slogan Kinder, Küche, Kürche (meaning children, kitchen, church), describing what the Nazis believed was the proper domain of a woman. The paper, which has been reprinted over 42 times in six different languages, is a seminal paper in feminist psychology, criticizing psychologists for promoting stereotypes about women, and buttressing its conclusions with unproven theories and inapplicable biological research (shades of evolutionary psychology.) " It further criticizes psychology in general for not taking into account how much social context affects a person's feelings and actions.

 "Kinder, Küche, Kirche as Scientific Law: Psychology Constructs the Female" can be read in its entirety in English here:

Frances M. Beal (born 1940) is a political activist. She is perhaps best known for writing  "Double Jeopardy: To Be Black & Female," first published in 1969. This paper criticizes the oppression of all black people by racism, but also criticizes the oppression of black women by sexism, even within the the civil rights movement, which often tried to build black men up by putting women down. 
 Beal declared that this was a "counter-revolutionary position" and that blacks should be fighting for the end of all kinds of oppression, an endeavor which she notes will require everyone's help, women as well as men. She also blames capitalist exploitation for keeping black men in menial jobs and encouraging black women to strive for the life of a full-time housewife. She ends by declaring that revolutionaries against racism and capitalism must treat each other as equals, and that all are needed in the struggle.

 "Double Jeopardy: To Be Black & Female" can be read in its entirety in English here:

The National Organization for Women (founded 1966) adopted the "National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) Bill of Rights" at its national conference in 1967, and published it in 1968. It is a sweeping document that shows how ambitious the feminist movement had become, and advocates for many things (such as removing all laws limiting access to contraceptive information and devices and laws governing abortion, and establishing national child care facilities) that still have not become law. 
An extended analysis of the "National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) Bill of Rights", also written by me (called "The National Organization for Women’s 1968 Bill of Rights – Where are we NOW?")  can be read in its entirety in English at the Feministing community website here:

The "National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) Bill of Rights" can be read in its entirety in English here:

Carol Hanisch (birthdate unknown) is best known for coming up with the idea to have a feminist protest of the 1968 Miss America pageant (which first brought feminist concerns to the attention of the mainstream media) and for writing The Personal Is Political, which was published in 1969 and coined the phrase. In this paper she argues that women and other oppressed people should stop blaming themselves for their problems and realize that those problems are often caused by oppression and have political solutions. 
You can read The Personal Is Political in its entirety in English here:

Del Martin (1921-2008) is best known as an LGBT rights activist, but she also fought for women’s rights. She was active in the National Organization for Women, and wrote Battered Wives, showing how institutionalized misogyny contributed to domestic violence. In 1970 she wrote If That’s All There Is, an indictment of the sexism in the LGBT rights movement.
Adrienne Rich (1929 –2012) was an American poet, and essayist, called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century", and was credited with bringing "the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse.” 
 In her 1980 essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian ExistenceRich, herself a lesbian, posits that many women are forced into heterosexuality through women's dependence on men for money and status, violence, denial of knowledge about lesbianism, and so forth. She further declares that sexual repression of women has also stifled women’s creativity and economic advancement through rendering them dependent on men.  
 Whether one agrees with all this or not, this is an important document in the history of feminism, and its concept has been accepted and embraced in many college classes and by human rights activists. As one example of its scope, the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, held in Brussels, March 4-8, 1976, named compulsory heterosexuality (in the form of discrimination against and persecution of lesbians) as a "crime against women."The essay can be read in its entirety in English here:
Linda Nochlin (born 1931) Linda Nochlin is an art historian, professor and writer, best known for her 1971 essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? 
 In this essay, which has become very influential in the field of art history, she argues that general social expectations against women seriously pursuing art, restrictions on educating women at art academies, and "the entire romantic, elitist, individual-glorifying, and monograph-producing substructure upon which the profession of art history is based" have worked against women becoming great artists.She also argues that the idea of a lone great artist is somewhat exaggerated, as many have been supported by the help of assistants, patrons, schooling, etc, and have not simply created works of genius alone and unprovoked.
You can read the essay in its entirety in English here:"why+have+their+

Anne Koedt (born 1941 in Denmark, moved to America in her youth) is best known as the author of The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, first published in 1970. In this essay, building on the work of Masters and Virginia Johnson’s Human Sexual Response Koedt advocated new sexual techniques mutually conducive to orgasm and urged women to insist on their own sexual satisfaction. She noted that penis-in-vagina sex (as opposed to oral sex, etc) that does not involve clitoris stimulation often results in women not having orgasms, and encouraged women to consider sex without their pleasure to be as unthinkable as sex without his penis being touched or him having an orgasm, an idea which mainstream society still has not adopted. 
The essay can be read in its entirety in English here:
Robin Morgan (born 1941) was a child actor and writer. She edited the 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful, which has been widely credited with helping to start the general women's movement in the US, and was cited by the New York Public Library as "One of the 100 most influential Books of the 20th Century.” It was one of the first widely available anthologies of second-wave feminism. Also in 1970, she wrote Goodbye to All That in reaction to the misogyny of the male-dominated left, in particular a magazine called RatThe essay gained notoriety in the press for naming sexist liberal men and institutions. It can be read in its entirety in English here:
Rabbi Rachel Adler (born 1943) is a professor and theologian, ordained as a rabbi in May 2012.In 1971 she published The Jew Who Wasn’t There:Halacha and the Jewish Woman, in which she argued that halacha (Jewish religious law) ignored and oppressed women. This essay was considered by historian Paula Hyman as one of the founding influences of the Jewish feminist movement. It can be read in its entirety in English here:'t+there&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgKmt25OwE0fl_Yilu_Ayd2XrtUpxtH
Carol P. Christ (born 1944) is a teacher and author. Her speech Why Women Need the Goddess was presented as the keynote address to an audience of over 500 at the "Great Goddess Re-emerging" conference at the University of Santa Cruz in the spring of 1978, and was first published later that year. It has since been widely reprinted. In this speech she argues in favor of the concept of there having been an ancient religion of a supreme Goddess. The speech can be read in its entirety in English here:
Alice Walker (born 1944) is an author and activist. In 1974 she wrote In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: The Creativity of Black Women in the South in which she argued that black women’s artistic and literary gifts had been suppressed, and that there was a hidden history of oppressed black women artists. This essay can be read in its entirety in English here:  
Her 1975 nonfiction article In Search of Zora Neale Hurston, published in Ms. magazine, helped revive interest in the work of Zora Neale Hurston (a feminist author best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God), who inspired some of Walker's writing and subject matter. In the article told of her journey to central Florida, where Hurston lived, hoping to find anyone who knew her and thus fill in the missing details of her life. When she arrived, Walker realized that few had heard of Hurston or read her works, nor had they properly honored her after she died. Posing as her niece, Walker made her way to Hurston’s weed-covered grave and purchased a headstone with the engraving: “A Genius of the South, 1901 – 1960. Novelist, Folklorist, Anthropologist”. This article is widely available in English but is not available online.
In 1982 she published The Color Purple, which focuses on the life on black women in the 1930s in the United States, and includes themes of lesbianism and feminism. It is widely considered a feminist classic. 

In this book Walker portrays female friendships as a means for women to summon the courage to tell stories which allow women to resist oppression and dominance. Relationships among women form a refuge, providing reciprocal love in a world filled with male violence. The novel also shows the limitations of gender roles. In 1983 she published In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose, a collection composed of thirty-six separate pieces. In this book she coins the word "womanist", which she defines as, "A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mother to female children and also a woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women's culture. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female." This has become a popular and influential concept among feminist women of color. The piece In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, about the hidden creativity of black American women, can be read in its entirety in English here:
Ezrat Nashim (founded 1971) was a Jewish feminist group. The name refers to the women’s section in a traditional synagogue, but also can mean "women's help." In 1972 they took the issue of equality for women to the 1972 convention of Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinical Assembly, presenting a document on 14 March that was titled Jewish Women Call for a Change. The rabbis received the document in their convention packets, but Ezrat Nashim also presented it during a meeting with the rabbis' wives. 
The document demanded that women be accepted as witnesses before Jewish law, be considered as bound to perform all mitzvot (commandments),, be allowed full participation in religious observances, have equal rights in marriage and be allowed to initiate divorce, be counted in the minyan (religious quorum), and be permitted to assume positions of leadership in the synagogue and within the general Jewish community. Historian Paula Hyman, who was a member of Ezrat Nashim, wrote that: "We recognized that the subordinate status of women was linked to their exemption from positive time-bound mitzvot, and we therefore accepted increased obligation as the corollary of equality.” 
Eleven years later, in October 1983, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the main educational institution of the Conservative movement, announced its decision to accept women into the Rabbinical School. Hyman took part in the vote as a member of the JTS faculty. Today, women are ordained as rabbis and cantors, and can read from the Torah in front of the congregation and be counted in the minyan, have full participation in religious observances, and be accepted as witnesses before Jewish law, in all types of Judaism except Orthodox Judaism. 
However, women are still not allowed to initiate divorce in Conservative as well as Orthodox Judaism, and are not considered as bound to perform all mitzvot by the Orthodox. But women have assumed positions of leadership in the synagogue and within the general Jewish community within all types of Judaism. Jewish Women Call for a Change can be read in its entirety in English here:

The Combahee River Collective (founded 1974)was a black feminist lesbian group. Their name commemorated an action at Combahee River planned and led by Harriet Tubman in 1863, which freed more than 750 slaves and is the only military campaign in American history planned and led by a woman. In 1977 they published A Black Feminist Statement, a key document in the history of contemporary black feminism and the development of the concepts of identity as used among political organizers and social theorists. It describes the importance of black feminism, the difficulties in organizing black feminists, the realities of interlocking oppressions, and racism in the mainstream women’s movement. The essay can be read in its entirety  in English here:

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a Caribbean-American lesbian writer, poet, librarian, and activist. Lorde criticized feminists of the 1960s for focusing on the particular experiences and values of white middle-class women. 
Her writings are based on the "theory of difference", the idea that the binary opposition between men and women is overly simplistic: although feminists have found it necessary to present the illusion of a solid, unified whole, the category of women itself is full of subdivisions.
Among other works, Lorde wrote The Cancer Journals (1980), in which she describes her experience with cancer and calls on the reader to relinquish silence and speak out. She focuses on the importance of the love received from the women around her throughout her experience, and the comfort from talking about it with other lesbian cancer survivors. She also discusses coming to terms with the outcome of the operation, which left her with one breast. She explains that although it would be fine for women to resort to a prosthesis if they want to, she chooses not to, thinking that it seems like a cover-up in a society where women are solely judged on their looks. She also discusses the possibilities of alternative medicine, arguing that women should look at all the options.  
Her book Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) began a new genre known as biomythography, a term she coined which means the weaving together of myth, history, and biography in epic narrative form, a style of composition meant to represent all the ways in which we perceive the world around us. In Zami, Lorde discusses her upbringing and early life. The book describes the way lesbians lived in NYC, Connecticut, and Mexico. It also discusses Lorde's difficult relationship with her mother, whom she credits for imbuing her with a certain sense of strength; the book ends with a homage to her. Zami is a Caribbean name for women who work together as friends and lovers. 
 In one of Lorde's most famous essays, "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House"  from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984)she attacks the underlying racism of feminism, describing it as unrecognized dependence on the patriarchy. She argues that, by denying difference in the category of women, feminists merely passed on old systems of oppression and that, in so doing, they were preventing any real, lasting change. Her argument aligns white feminists with white male slave-masters, describing both as "agents of oppression."

Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004) was an American scholar of Chicano cultural theory, queer theory, and feminist theory.

She is most famous for co-editing This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (1981) with Cherrie Moraga. 

This anthology explores the feminist revolution from the perspective of women of color and addresses the cultural, class, and sexual differences that impact them.  It includes Anzaldúa's speech called "Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers" (1981), focusing on the shift towards an equal and just gender representation in literature, but away from racial and cultural issues due to the rise of female writers and theorists.

She also stresses in her speech the power of writing to create a world which would compensate for what the real world does not offer us. Anzaldúa has introduced the term "mestizaje" to United States academic audiences, meaning a state of being beyond binary (either-or) understanding. In her theoretical works,  Anzaldúa calls for a "new mestiza," which she describes as an individual aware of her conflicting and meshing identities and uses these "new angles of vision" to challenge binary thinking. This "new mestiza" way of thinking is part of postcolonial feminism. In "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness" (1987), a text often used in women's studies,  Anzaldúa insists that separatism for Chicanas and Chicanos is not furthering the cause, but instead keeping the same racial division in place.

Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005) was an American author. During the late 1970s and the 1980s, she gained national fame as a spokeswoman for the feminist anti-pornography movement, and for her writing on pornography and sexuality, particularly in Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981) and Intercourse (1987), which remain her two most widely known books.In Pornography: Men Possessing Women she argues that pornography and erotic literature in patriarchal societies consistently eroticize women's sexual subordination to men, and often overt acts of exploitation or violence.

In Intercourse, she went on to argue that that sort of sexual subordination is central to men's and women's experiences of sexual intercourse in male supremacist society, and reinforced throughout mainstream culture, including not only pornography but also in classic works of male-centric literature. Dworkin argues that the depictions of intercourse in mainstream art and culture consistently emphasize heterosexual intercourse as the only or the most genuine form of "real" sex; that they portray intercourse in violent or invasive terms; that they portray the violence or invasiveness as central to its eroticism; and that they often unite it with male contempt for, revulsion towards, or even murder of, the "carnal" woman.

bell hooks (aka Gloria Jean Watkins, born 1952) is an American author and activist. She took her pen name, which is intentionally uncapitalized, from her grandmother Bell Blair Hooks. She chose this because her grandmother "was known for her snappy and bold tongue, which I greatly admired." She put the name in lowercase letters "to distinguish myself from my grandmother." Her name's unconventional lowercasing signifies what is most important in her works: the "substance of books, not who I am." 
 Her first major work Ain't I a Woman?: Black women and feminism (1981) examines the historical impact of sexism and racism on black women, devaluation of black womanhood, media roles and portrayal, the education system, the idea of a white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy, the marginalization of black women, and the disregard for issues of race and class within feminism. 
In 1984 she published Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,which confirmed her importance as a leader in radical feminist thought. Throughout the book, hooks uses the term white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy as a lens through which to both critique various aspects of American culture and to offer potential solutions to the problems she explores.
hooks addresses topics including the goals of feminist movement, the role of men in feminist struggle, the relevance of pacifism, solidarity among women, and the nature of revolution. hooks can be identified in her discussions of these topics as a radical feminist because of her arguments that the system itself is corrupt and that achieving equality in such a system is neither possible nor desirable. She promotes instead a complete transformation of society and all of its institutions as a result of protracted struggle, envisioning a life-affirming, peaceful tomorrow. A second edition of this book, featuring a new preface,  "Seeing the Light: Visionary Feminism,"  was published in 2000. In the preface to the first edition, hooks, talking about black Americans in her hometown, discusses the meaning of her title From Margin to Center: "Living as we did "on the edge" we developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked from both the outside in and the inside out. We focused our attention on the center as well as the margin. We understood both. This mode of seeing reminded us of the existence of a whole universe, a main body made up of both margin and center."

Hillary Clinton (born 1947) is an American politician. In 1995 her speech at the 1995 UN Conference on Women, called Women’s Rights are Human Rights (1995) showed her “speaking more forcefully on human rights than any American dignitary has on Chinese soil” as the NY Times put it. It is often considered one of the landmark speeches in the global struggle for women’s rights, and condemns all abuses of women wherever they occur. It can be read in its entirety in English here: 

Eve Ensler (born May 25, 1953) is an American playwright, performer, feminist, activist and artist, best known for her play The Vagina Monologues. This play is made up of various feminist monologues centering around women’s experiences with their vaginas, based on interviews Ensler did with various women. 
However, it has come in for some criticism, mostly due to the monologue "The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could", in which an underage girl (thirteen in earlier performances, sixteen in the revised version) recounts being given alcohol and then having sex with an adult woman; the incident is recalled fondly by the grown girl, who in the original version of the play calls it "a good rape." This monologue is omitted from some versions.  
In 1998, Ensler’s experience performing The Vagina Monologues inspired her to create V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day raises funds and awareness through annual benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues, and has raised over $800,000,000 so far.

Susan Faludi (born April 18, 1959) is an American journalist and author. Faludi's 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women argues that the 1980s saw a backlash against feminism in America, especially due to the spread of negative stereotypes against career-focused women. Faludi asserts that many who argue "a woman's place is in the home, looking after the kids" are hypocrites, since they have wives who are working mothers or, as women, they are themselves working mothers. This work won her the National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction in 1991.
Naomi Wolf (born 1962) is an American author and former political consultant. She is most famous for the book The Beauty Myth (1991) which argues that as women have gained increased social power and prominence, expected adherence to standards of physical beauty has grown stronger for women. that "beauty" as a normative value is entirely socially constructed, and that the patriarchy determines the content of that construction with the goal of reproducing its own hegemony.

Rebecca Walker (born November 17, 1969) is an American writer. She co-founded the Third Wave Foundation, which aims to encourage young women to get involved in activism and leadership roles. The organization now provides grants to individuals and projects that support young women. Walker is considered one of the founding leaders of third-wave feminism. She wrote an article for Ms. Magazine called Becoming the Third Wave (1991), criticizing the confirmation of Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court justice after he was accused of sexually harassing his employee Anita Hill. Using this example, Walker addresses the oppression of the female voice and introduces the concept of third-wave feminism, a term her article coined. Walker defines third wave feminism at the end of the article by saying “To be a feminist is to integrate an ideology of equality and female empowerment into the very fiber of life. It is to search for personal clarity in the midst of systemic destruction, to join in sisterhood with women when often we are divided, to understand power structures with the intention of challenging them.”

Riot Grrrl was an American underground feminist punk rock movement that originally started in Washington, D.C.; Olympia, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and the greater Pacific Northwest in the early to mid-1990s. The Riot Grrrl Manifesto (1991) criticizes male-dominated culture and encourages girls to build their own alternative. It can be read in its entirety in English here:

Marilyn French (1929-2009) was an American writer. Her most significant work in later life was the four-volume From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women, published in 2002 and built around the premise that exclusion from the prevailing intellectual histories denied women their past, present and future. Despite carefully chronicling a long history of oppression, the last volume ends on an optimistic note.

Jennifer Baumgardner (born 1970) and Amy Richards (born circa 1971) are American writers and activists. They coauthored Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (2000) after writing for the feminist magazine Ms. 
This book is an analysis of U.S. feminism that claims that "girl culture," from women rock stars and athletes to female entrepreneurs and inventors, supports feminism and has become an integral part of the national psyche. At the same time, they caution young women not to stop and rest on the success of cultural feminism, but to develop political lives and awareness, and include appendixes to teach novices the nuts-and-bolts of community organizing. Jennifer is openly bisexual and has also written about the bisexual experience.