Writing and literature have their share of sexism. But over the past few decades more female voices have arisen from various walks of life to share their memoirs, thoughts, and unique stories.

Feminist fiction has empowered women [readers] over generations to develop their own perceptions of self, reinforcing through fantasy and imagination, tales of identity and power struggle. For any novel to be considered feminist it must have a strong female lead who has a strong female agenda and whose questions and concerns with womanhood take center stage and drive the story forward.

This list of wondrous books will open your mind to the debate of sexes and bring an intimacy to your relationship with the trailblazers of feminism. What makes text on feminism great is the right values associated with it. But it also needs sufficient wit, wisdom, energy and eloquence to inspire change beyond its time, perhaps beyond the imagination of its author. Our list is not exhaustive but an essential read which will make you fretful for a change in the society and a change within.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Although every male character who comes into contact with the protagonist of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel tries to dominate her, Jane never fully succumbs to them. In a move virtually unheard of in that era, she continues to work after getting married, wanting to be financially independent from Rochester.

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf

In the prelude to the 1929 book, Virginia Woolf explains that Shakespeare might have had an equally talented sister, but that we’ll never know of her talents because she was never afforded the same education and acknowledgment he, as a man, was. The entire book explains the need for a feminine discourse in literature.

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel raised the consciousness in women, and deals with women’s sexuality and questions assumptions about their relationships with men. Lessing wishes for it to be a humanist, rather than a feminist text, and was surprised that, for years women had been saying what she said, but had never written it down.

The Bell Jar

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Poet Sylvia Plath’s only book, released under a pseudonym of Victoria Lucas in 1963, is a story of female rites of passage. It also broke stereotypes of female mental instability, simply in that this was one of the first novels written about female depression written by a woman.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Maya Angelou’s autobiography mainly deals with how knowledge and strength of character can help one overcome racism and abuse. However, the 1969 tome also shows a woman overcoming much adversity to become self-possessed and dignified.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Written in 1985, in the midst of Reagan’s presidency, Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize shortlisted book is a warning against the anti-feminist extremism that was seeping through from the Right following the second wave of feminism.

The Color Purple

Alice Walker’s genre-defining novel about Southern women of color in the 1930s is both brutal and beautiful. The story of Celie, her abusive husband, and his gentler (though insecure) son and the powerful women that move throughout their lives is a slice of Southern life and also a testament to the power of strong women.

Sense & Sensibility

Navigating Jane Austen with a feminist lens can be tricky because of the social mores of the time, but in the end, you always come out with a strong sense of the depth, nuance, and texture offered by a women-led cast of characters. Sense & Sensibility is a story that ends in love and marriage with a male partner — but it’s also a testament to the ways different types of women dream about and define love, to the importance of female friendship and the strength of women even in a time when their gender was marginalized and trivialized.