The history of women writers

Bob Edwards Weekend
The following is not a full transcript; for full story, listen to audio.

Princeton University Professor Emerita, Elaine Showalter has spent the last six years researching and writing "A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx." Showalter chose both famous and obscure authors for her book, and on "Bob Edwards Weekend, she talks about the history of American female writers from 1650 to 2000.

Showalter says that women have long been under-represented when it comes to our literary history: "There was a time, I think, when women writers were kept alive by women readers and women scholars, but I think that's over. And I think we're now entering a century where women are totally free and at an equal level with men in literature; however, that doesn't mean that they are as installed in literary history. And when people ... say they want to write about the decade of the 1950s, even highly qualified scholars and critics from our major publications will write about the 1950s as if ... all the writers were men.

"Women write a lot of fiction, and are massively read, and if you look at the best-seller list at any point ... they will be represented in great numbers, and women are also reading fiction by men; but the opposite is not the case. I mean, men don't read as much fiction by women; but more important than that, in our schools and in our histories of American literature, and in our sense of a national literary tradition, women don't play the role that they've earned."

Along with the famous and expected -- like Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor and Jodi Picoult -- Showalter's book also covers lesser-known writers like Catherine Sedgwick and Susan Glaspell.

On, Showalter recommends the top ten books by lesser-known American women writers -- see her list.

Bob Edwards Weekend" is a two-hour interview showcase, in which celebrated host Bob Edwards highlights the life and work of interesting people, from newsmakers, historians, and authors to artists, actors, and regular folks too. The show is produced by XM Satellite Radio and distributed nationwide by PRI.

More "Bob Edwards Weekend"

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.