Toni Morrison dressed in brown, looking at camera smiling.

5 Women Writers We Want On Our Banknotes

Britain have just unveiled their £10 note featuring the wonderful Jane Austen, who, 200 years after her death, is still charming readers worldwide. We’ve put together a list of the top five literary ladies we’d love to see grace the faces of America’s banknotes!


1. Dr. Toni Morrison


Toni Morrison

Image Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica 


Pioneer author and activist Toni Morrison is first on our list. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Morrison is an icon, an expert in her field, and one of America’s most revered writers. 


Born on February 18, 1931, in Ohio, her novels, including ‘Sula,’ ‘Jazz’ and ‘Beloved,’ are known for their depictions of race and racism, and their multi-layered, richly drawn African American characters.


Morrison frequently speaks and writes about issues of race in contemporary America, condemning police brutality and the election of President Donald Trump, who is supported by many white supremacist groups. 


2. Emily Dickinson


Emily Dickinson

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Arguably the most important American poet of the 19th century, Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, and was quite reclusive, spending most of her time with her family. Few people passed through her life, but those who did were the subjects of much of her poetry.


She also wrote extensively on abstract themes such as grief, hope, and nature. Dickinson wrote over 1,900 poems in her fifty-six years–all neatly written in handmade paper booklets–in her idiosyncratic style, featuring many dashes of varied length and inconsistent capitalization.


Her volumes of poetry were only discovered by her family after her death in 1886.


3. Dr. Maya Angelou


Maya Angelou

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Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928, Angelou is best known for seven autobiographical books. But Angelou was also a poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer, and civil rights activist.


In 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. requested she become the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1974 she was appointed by Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission and later by Jimmy Carter to the Commission for International Woman of the Year.  Angelou performed at the inauguration for President Bill Clinton in 1993. In 2000, she received the National Medal of Arts, and in 2010 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


She was also first black woman director in Hollywood, writing, producing, directing and starring in productions for stage, film, and television.  She also wrote and produced several prize-winning documentaries, and was nominated for a Tony award for acting twice.


Angelou died on May 28, 2014, in North Carolina, where she had served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University since 1982. 


4. Joyce Carol Oates


Joyce Carol Oates wearing classes and looking at camera

Image Courtesy of Huffington Post


Oates was born in Lockport, New York in 1938 and has published over 40 novels, in addition to plays and novellas, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction and is one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century.


She has won a number of awards including Norman Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award and the PEN/Malamud Award.


Many authors cite her as an influence, notably Jonathan Safran Foer, whom she taught at Princeton and for whom she served as senior thesis adviser to any early draft of what would become his celebrated novel ‘Everything is Illuminated.’


5. Esmerelda Santiago


Esmerelda Santiago

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Born in 1948 in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Esmerelda Santiago moved to the United States at thirteen. She is the author of several books, both novels and memoirs, having come to writing through the creation of documentary and educational films. 


She is a spokesperson for public libraries and has developed community-based programs for adolescents, as well as founding a women’s shelter. She serves on the boards of organizations devoted to the arts and to literature. Santiago earned a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Trinity College, from Pace University and University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.


Featured Image Courtesy of Buzzworthy