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Top 9 Bad Bitches In Literature

In chronological order because I don't play favorites

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1. Sappho (c. 620-570 BC)

Sappho's literary reputation has survived for over a millennium even though much of her work has been lost. A lot of her poetry focused on erotic love (both hetero- and homosexual), and lesbian was derived from her birthplace, the isle of Lesbos. Her own name even became an adjective: sapphic. That's pretty badass.
Archive Photos/Hulton Archive / Via theguardian.com

Sappho's literary reputation has survived for over a millennium even though much of her work has been lost. A lot of her poetry focused on erotic love (both hetero- and homosexual), and lesbian was derived from her birthplace, the isle of Lesbos. Her own name even became an adjective: sapphic. That's pretty badass.

2. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

Although Wollstonecraft wrote a wide variety of books during her career, she is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Women. She was thoroughly ahead of her time, both professionally and personally (love affairs and illegitimate children galore!), and her legacy influenced the suffragette movement and later writers like Virginia Woolf.
John Opie / Via biography.com

Although Wollstonecraft wrote a wide variety of books during her career, she is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Women. She was thoroughly ahead of her time, both professionally and personally (love affairs and illegitimate children galore!), and her legacy influenced the suffragette movement and later writers like Virginia Woolf.

3. Mary Shelley (1797-1851)

Wollstonecraft's daughter, Mary Shelley is best known as the author of Frankenstein, which some argue is the first science fiction novel. While visiting Lord Byron with Percy Bysshe Shelley (her then-lover, later husband), both of whom were popular and well-known writers at the time, Shelley composed Frankenstein in answer to Byron's suggestion that they each write a ghost story to entertain themselves. Two centuries later, Shelley's novel has endured as a mainstay of Western popular culture-- everyone has heard of Frankenstein-- while Lord Byron and Percy are hardly household names. If that doesn't make you a Bad Bitch, I don't know what does.
Hulton Archive / Getty / Via theguardian.com

Wollstonecraft's daughter, Mary Shelley is best known as the author of Frankenstein, which some argue is the first science fiction novel. While visiting Lord Byron with Percy Bysshe Shelley (her then-lover, later husband), both of whom were popular and well-known writers at the time, Shelley composed Frankenstein in answer to Byron's suggestion that they each write a ghost story to entertain themselves. Two centuries later, Shelley's novel has endured as a mainstay of Western popular culture-- everyone has heard of Frankenstein-- while Lord Byron and Percy are hardly household names. If that doesn't make you a Bad Bitch, I don't know what does.

4. Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880)

Mary Ann Evans is better known as George Eliot, the mastermind behind such great English novels as Daniel Deronda and Middlemarch (the latter of which Virginia Woolf deemed "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people"). Evans wrote under a pen name in part to separate her work from her personal life; she scandalized Victorian England by openly living with a married man, George Henry Lewes, and not having the "decency" to keep it a secret, only to later marry a man 20 years her junior who tried to kill himself by jumping off a hotel balcony during their honeymoon.
The Print Collector/Corbis / Via theguardian.com

Mary Ann Evans is better known as George Eliot, the mastermind behind such great English novels as Daniel Deronda and Middlemarch (the latter of which Virginia Woolf deemed "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people"). Evans wrote under a pen name in part to separate her work from her personal life; she scandalized Victorian England by openly living with a married man, George Henry Lewes, and not having the "decency" to keep it a secret, only to later marry a man 20 years her junior who tried to kill himself by jumping off a hotel balcony during their honeymoon.

5. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Although Stein is perhaps best known for her patronage of other artists and writers (thanks, Midnight in Paris!), she was a literary sensation in her own right, too. Her writing was experimental and innovative, from attributing feelings to inanimate objects in Tender Buttons to writing a memoir through the eyes of her partner in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Plus, Ayn Rand hated her, which is reason enough to crown Stein "Queen of the Bad Bitches."
AP / Via theguardian.com

Although Stein is perhaps best known for her patronage of other artists and writers (thanks, Midnight in Paris!), she was a literary sensation in her own right, too. Her writing was experimental and innovative, from attributing feelings to inanimate objects in Tender Buttons to writing a memoir through the eyes of her partner in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Plus, Ayn Rand hated her, which is reason enough to crown Stein "Queen of the Bad Bitches."

6. Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Before she became a writer, Angelou dabbled in a variety of professions: she was the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco, she toured Europe as a dancer (making a point to learn the languages of each country she visited), and she recorded an album of calypso music. Her autobiographical novel, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, follows Angelou from her childhood to the birth of her son, including the five years she spent mute after the man who abused her was murdered; it is also one of the books most frequently banned in the United States. As evidenced by the outpouring of grief following her death, though, Angelou's influence never wavered.
Jane Brown / Via theguardian.com

Before she became a writer, Angelou dabbled in a variety of professions: she was the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco, she toured Europe as a dancer (making a point to learn the languages of each country she visited), and she recorded an album of calypso music. Her autobiographical novel, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, follows Angelou from her childhood to the birth of her son, including the five years she spent mute after the man who abused her was murdered; it is also one of the books most frequently banned in the United States. As evidenced by the outpouring of grief following her death, though, Angelou's influence never wavered.

7. Francoise Sagan (1935-2004)

It wouldn't be a stretch to call Sagan the "Lindsey Lohan of French Literature." Her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, was published when she was just 18 and propelled her to international fame. Although she continued to write, her personal life tended to distract from her literary chops: she bought and crashed an Aston Martin, she struggled with cocaine and gambling, she carried on highly-publicized affairs with both men and women, and she died heavily in debt. The balance between the cerebral (she took her pen name from Proust) and the hedonistic (she once said, "Money may not buy happiness, but I'd rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus") makes Sagan a certifiable Bad Bitch.
Lido/EPA / Via theguardian.com

It wouldn't be a stretch to call Sagan the "Lindsey Lohan of French Literature." Her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, was published when she was just 18 and propelled her to international fame. Although she continued to write, her personal life tended to distract from her literary chops: she bought and crashed an Aston Martin, she struggled with cocaine and gambling, she carried on highly-publicized affairs with both men and women, and she died heavily in debt. The balance between the cerebral (she took her pen name from Proust) and the hedonistic (she once said, "Money may not buy happiness, but I'd rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus") makes Sagan a certifiable Bad Bitch.

8. Jennifer Egan (1952-Present)

Best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit From The Goon Squad, Egan's work is always thought-provoking while varying drastically in theme and structure from one book to the next. Her oeuvre makes it pretty clear that Egan would be an awesome person to get a beer with (maybe she should run for president), and not just because sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll are perhaps the only constant across her novels; can you imagine getting to pick the brain of someone that intensely curious about...everything? (Plus, can you guess who she dated in the '80s? Steve Jobs; he gave her a Mac for her dorm room at Penn.)
Tim Knox / Via theguardian.com

Best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit From The Goon Squad, Egan's work is always thought-provoking while varying drastically in theme and structure from one book to the next. Her oeuvre makes it pretty clear that Egan would be an awesome person to get a beer with (maybe she should run for president), and not just because sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll are perhaps the only constant across her novels; can you imagine getting to pick the brain of someone that intensely curious about...everything? (Plus, can you guess who she dated in the '80s? Steve Jobs; he gave her a Mac for her dorm room at Penn.)

9. Donna Tartt (1963-Present)

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, you know Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch this year. Not much is actually known about Tartt, though. Every ten years or so she pops out of the woodwork with a new novel, usually to great acclaim, only to disappear again. On the strength of her disturbing-but-engrossing novels and that signature bob, though, I'm declaring her a Bad Bitch.
Grant Delin/Corbis / Via theguardian.com

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, you know Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch this year. Not much is actually known about Tartt, though. Every ten years or so she pops out of the woodwork with a new novel, usually to great acclaim, only to disappear again. On the strength of her disturbing-but-engrossing novels and that signature bob, though, I'm declaring her a Bad Bitch.

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