Five Female Writers in Chicago Literary History

Thanks to David Swanson for pointing me to this fine article at in celebration of a few female writers who have contributed to Chicago and world literary history:

March is Women’s History Month; for 31 days we celebrate the women who have made our employment, the oration of our opinions, and our lifestyles possible.

When it comes to contemporary authors, there’s plenty of strong female voices in Chicago. This wasn’t always the case. Women have had to fight for their spot in society at the very least, and still are still presented with threats against their equal rights in today’s political mess. The Christine Sneeds and Audrey Niffeneggers of Chicago can thank plenty of individuals for their publications, but here are a list of five Chicago ladies who paved the way for their success.

Harriet Monroe (1860-1936)

Poets of Chicago and the world in general can thank Miss Harriet Monroe for the work championing the genre. Monroe was the founder and editor of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. After gaining some popularity as poet and freelancer for The Tribune, she became increasingly agitated over the lack of recognition—and funding—for poets. And so, in 1912, Monroe reached out to 100 head honchos in Chicago to pay for a subscription to her new poetry magazine. With this money, Poetry was launched. Its success wascolossal in the genre: poets such as Ezra Pound, T.S. Elliot, and Carl Sandburg were all edited at one time or another by Monroe, and it was her support that ensured the longevity of their reputations.

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)

Ida Wells is Chicago’s First Lady of Civil Rights, and a pivotal player in the the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Wells’ influence was cast through the power of journalism. She dove straight into investigation and exploitation of lynching in the U.S. with her pamphlets: Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and A Red Record. In 1893 she and Frederick Douglass, among several others, organized a boycott against the World’s Columbian Exposition, arguing that the Exposition did not work with the black community to fairly display African American life. They distributed their pamphlet, Reasons Why the Colored American Is Not Like the Columbian Exposition, in protest. The list of Wells’ articles and documentation is endless, but the influence remains: she asserted herself within Chicago’s windy politics, and made it an easier place for the rest of us women to do so.

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