Feminist literature is any work, fiction or nonfiction, supporting the goal of defending equal rights for women, including political, economic, social, and civil rights. Various works of literature dating back to the 15th century have been identified as feminists, works that usually describe the unequal role of women in society and the negative consequences that such inequality has on society.
Chrisitine de Pizan’s 1405 masterwork The Book of the City of Ladies is frequently considered to be the earliest work of feminist literature. Largely written in response to the popular Romance of the Rose, Pizan argues both in favor for the education of women as well as the idea that women are valued participants in society. Pizan also wrote The Treasure of the City of Ladies and The Tale of Joan of Arc.
Critics have labeled three stages in women’s writing over the centuries. The first was the Feminine Phase, in which women tried to write as men, and often employed male pseudonyms. The second is the Feminist Phase, in which themes explored the oppression of women and their role in society. Third is the Female Phase, not as activist as the Feminist Phase, but marked by the acceptance of legitimate female voices.
Famous authors of feminist literature include Mary Wollstonecraft, George Sand, Kate Chopin, Susan Glaspell, and Virginia Woolf. Feminist writers believe that gender inequalities in society should be removed, and that all people see society in terms that do not discriminate based on gender.