Literary Lady Friends Throughout History

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Happy Galentine’s Day, babes! It’s the annual day of love, and we can’t think of a better kind of love to celebrate than that between gal pals; there’s really no support system, motivator, or cheer squad quite like your best friends.

So to celebrate Valentine’s Day we’ve rounded up a list of some of the best female friendships of our literary past and present. Here’s to friends who motivate us to work hard, who read draft after draft, and encourage us to realize our dreams!


Katherine Mansfield & Virginia Woolf

Left to right: Woolf; Mansfield

Left to right: Woolf; Mansfield

Although Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf first met in 1916, it wasn’t until 1917, when Mansfield became the first author published through Hogarth Press, owned by Woolf and her husband, that their friendship truly blossomed. Despite her own desires to become a successful writer, Woolf championed Mansfield throughout the publication of Prelude, her struggle rheumatism, and despite Mansfield’s rather critical review of Woolf’s 1919 novel Night and Day. Though much of their friendship was coloured by rivalry, it’s said they found a highly-respected critical voice in one another, honesty built on respect,  and a mutual love for writing, that resulted in a lasting friendship.


Sylvia Plath & Anne Sexton

Left to right: Plath and Sexton.

Left to right: Plath and Sexton.

American poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton first met in at Boston University while under the instruction of confessional poet Robert Lowell. Aside from their mutual love of poetry, they bonded over their unique struggles with mental illness, a theme that would always influence their work. In particular, a mutual fascination with death and suicide set them apart from the more traditionally American themes of their poetic colleagues, and it was this distinction that helped them form a long-standing friendship. They were known for being quite competitive, urging one another to explore their proclivities through poetry.

Margaret Atwood & Valerie Martin

Margaret Atwood met American writer Valerie Martin in 1985 when they were both teaching at the University of Alabama. Martin gave Atwood a tour of the university on her first day, however, it wasn’t until their daughters became friends that they grew close. Martin was the first person to read The Handmaid’s Tale and predicted its success. At that point, Martin had written two unpublished novels and a book of short stories, and Atwood offered to send them off to her agent, Nan Talese, who remains their literary agent and sometime editor today. The pair continue to read each other’s work.

George Eliot & Harriet Beecher Stowe

Left to right: Eliot and Stowe.

Left to right: Eliot and Stowe.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the still famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was in her day a literary celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. Her success didn’t prevent her from contacting her own literary lady crush despite their never having met. When Stowe first reached out to her, addressing the letter to “My Dear Friend,” Eliot was equally famous—and equally infamous. And though Eliot was famously reserved, she responded to the lively letter full of unsolicited critique on her writing with the same immediate warmth and kinship Stowe had offered to her. Despite their many differences—among them nationality, lifestyle, religion (Stowe was a devout Christian; Eliot had denounced religion altogether), and marital status (Stowe was married; Eliot was ‘living in sin,’ unwed, with a man whom Stowe simply called her husband). The pair first corresponded when Eliot was forty-nine and Stowe fifty-seven, and they wrote committedly to each other for ten years, up until Eliot’s death.

Gloria Steinem & Angela Davis

Left to right: Steinem and Davis.

Left to right: Steinem and Davis.

These two living legends are closely tied in feminist literature and theory, so it’s all the more satisfying to know that these irreplaceable activists are also close irl. And how could they not be, as two of the most prominent social justice warriors on the planet? Brought together by their life callings to write and fight for the rights not just of women but of all marginalized and vulnerable populations, these intersectional feminist icons have achieved so much change—all of which has been accomplished with a great deal of sacrifice, hardship, heartbreak, and resistance from, you know, the patriarchy.


Looking for your own literary lady friends? Join us at The Book Writers’ Club today!

SPINE

Writing about writing.


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KATE JUNIPER   Editor, Writer & Founder of JEC. She's inspired, most often, to write about writing and how women (writers) can fix the world. She has a lot of opinions, actually.

KATE JUNIPER

Editor, Writer & Founder of JEC. She's inspired, most often, to write about writing and how women (writers) can fix the world. She has a lot of opinions, actually.

HAYLEY EVANS   Hayley is Copy Editor/ Editing Ninja for JEC. She is also an arts journalist for several online publications including  Scene 360  and  Illusion Magazine .

HAYLEY EVANS

Hayley is Copy Editor/ Editing Ninja for JEC. She is also an arts journalist for several online publications including Scene 360 and Illusion Magazine.

GEORGIA RUDELOFF   Georgia is JEC's Content Writer, a published poet, and past Poetry Editor for  This Side of West,  Modern and Contemporary Genre Editor for  The   Albatross , and Contributing Writer for  The Martlet  and  Saltern Magazine.

GEORGIA RUDELOFF

Georgia is JEC's Content Writer, a published poet, and past Poetry Editor for This Side of West, Modern and Contemporary Genre Editor for The Albatross, and Contributing Writer for The Martlet and Saltern Magazine.

JAIME CLIFTON-ROSS   Jaime is a Research Curator at Royal Roads University and as such knows a thing or two re: communications. She is JEC's Communications Specialist.

JAIME CLIFTON-ROSS

Jaime is a Research Curator at Royal Roads University and as such knows a thing or two re: communications. She is JEC's Communications Specialist.