While many of us are familiar with British literature’s leading ladies Jane Austen and the Brontës, they weren’t the only writing women of their day. In her new book Not Just Jane, author Shelley DeWees introduces us to seven “long-forgotten” women writers we should all know.
Inspired by her own love of British literature, DeWees went on a hunt to find other women writers of that time. She discovered hundreds of “authoresses who all deserve recognition,” but in her book shares the creative contributions and personal stories of Charlotte Turner Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Catherine Crowe, Sara Coleridge, Dinah Mulock Craik, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. The author chose these seven women for their “courage and unabashed sense of self-worth.”
As the book synopsis explains:
You’ve likely read at least one Jane Austen novel (or at least seen a film one). Chances are you’ve also read Jane Eyre; if you were an exceptionally moody teenager, you might have even read Wuthering Heights. English majors might add George Eliot or Virginia Woolf to this list… but then the trail ends. Were there truly so few women writing anything of note during late 18th and 19th century Britain?
In Not Just Jane, Shelley DeWees weaves history, biography, and critical analysis into a rip-roaring narrative of the nation’s fabulous, yet mostly forgotten, female literary heritage. As the country, and women’s roles within it, evolved, so did the publishing industry, driving legions of ladies to pick up their pens and hit the parchment. DeWees assembles a riveting, intimate, and ruthlessly unromanticized portrait of female life – and the literary landscape – during this era. In doing so, she comes closer to understanding how a society could forget so many of these women, who all enjoyed success, critical acclaim, and a fair amount of notoriety during their time, and realizes why, now more than ever, it’s vital that we remember.
The book was released on October 25, and is available now.
More about the author
Shelley DeWees has a graduate degree in ethnomusicology, several tattoos, and a documented obsession with British literature. Her writing has appeared in Austenprose, Jane Austen’s World, and Jane Austen Today, and after time spent teaching in Korea she recently moved back to Minneapolis with her husband. You can follow Shelley on Twitter.