Crazy Jobs 5 Famous Female Authors Had Before Writing

Big names including Maya Angelou and Harper Lee had incredible and shocking jobs before entering their writing careers. Let’s see what these female authors did!

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Female Authors: Maya Angelou, Agatha Christie, Jeanette Winterson, Octavia Butler, and Harper Lee

You would think that some of our most inspiring female authors had naturally discovered their passion for writing right away. However, when it comes to their previous work life, that was not the case. Big names including Maya Angelou and Agatha Christie (just naming a few), had extraordinary jobs before getting recognized as best-selling authors.

Let’s discover some of the crazy jobs some of our favorite female authors worked before kickstarting their writing careers.

Street car crossing Golden Gate Park pictured from 1911. One of the first street cars conducted by female author, Maya Angelo.

Now, we may have wondered how these powerful and inspirational women came to gain the insightful knowledge that we see exemplified in their pieces of literature. It is all about their experiences. The examples of these experiences from these female authors demonstrate that if you wish to become a writer, you do not have to jump right into a writing career in order to know everything there is about writing a good book.

1) Jeanette Winterson

Female Author: Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson is famous for her quirkiness and exceptionally powerful pieces surrounding historical significance, love in society, and exploration in unconventional topics. She is especially known for her works titled, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) and The Passion (1987). Some of her novels are based on discovering sexual identity and gendered stereotypes.

Winterson was born in Manchester in August 1959. She began writing at age six where she would work on Christian sermons. At age 16, she came out as a lesbian and became an independent individual who initially attended Accrington and Rossendale College, then proceeded to study English at Oxford University.

Winterson had an interesting background relating to her previous jobs. After leaving home at age 16, she needed to support herself by finding different places of work. Jeanette began working her first job as an ice cream truck driver. She would deliver yummy and drippy cones to children, how sweet is that?! Now, this was not her only job leading up to her writing career. Winterson also became a funeral parlor makeup artist and a domestic in a mental institution.

Colorful Ice Cream Truck

Despite these past jobs, Winterson has always had a heart for writing, especially comedic pieces. You can clearly see her witty remarks through her use of language, yet the reason for this is to spread laughter and joy to her readers. Currently, she is a professor of new writing at Manchester University.

2) Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler was a spiritual writer who focused on crafting race into science fiction. She is widely known for her Earthseed Trilogy following a woman who undergoes challenges in an apocalyptic world. Butler’s writing shifted from difficult and heavy topics to more fun and easygoing topics, however, she was mainly recognized for her complicated parable novels.

Butler was born in Pasadena, California in June 1947. She was mainly raised by her mother in a baptist environment. Growing up, she struggled with dyslexia and problems with racial discrimination, yet she did not let that get the best of her.

Potato chips being processed in factory

Aside from her writing career, I would say, Butler had one of the most interesting jobs out of the five. She was a potato chip inspector. That’s right, she inspected potato chips. On top of that, she would set an alarm for 2 a.m. every night to write after working long shifts at her day jobs. She was a very dedicated and experienced individual which ultimately led to her success as a writer.

Butler passed away due to a fatal stroke at age 58 in 2006. She will always be remembered as an exceptional writer who made a strong impact in the black community.

3) Agatha Christie

Female Author: Agatha Christie (typing on a typewriter)

Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. She is primarily known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She has more than 2 billion books published and it is likely that you have either read her work or seen her name everywhere! Christie has an exceptional way of using her words and her crime novels are unexpectedly brilliant.

Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon on September 15th, 1890. In her early life, she began reading at a young age and found a strong interest in detective or crime novels. She married a man named Archie around the time when the first World War began and decided that she wanted to help others. Christie volunteered as a nurse for Red Cross, then eventually was promoted to an apothecary’s assistant.

Medicines used as an apothecary's assistant (used around the time of World War I)

What is most interesting about this early job that Christie had is that she used her knowledge of different medicines she used and applied that to her writing. This job was indeed an eye-opener for Christie as she found a way to discover her true passion as a crime novelist. Not long after, she published many books relating to crimes and developed strong characters. Even though Agatha Christie loved to read, she found inspiration through this job which is incredible.

Christie passed away in 1976 at age 85. She did not waste any second showing the world her true talent. Christie will forever be known as a literary legend and as many others call her, “the Crime Queen”.

4) Harper Lee

Female Author: Harper Lee

Harper Lee was an American novelist most known for her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. She later published, Go Set a Watchman, which was believed to be a sequel to her first novel. Lee was born in April 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama where she became inspired to write. She mainly wanted to focus on racial discrimination in her hometown which is portrayed through the plot of Mockingbird.

Despite her developing an interest in English literature, she was employed as an airline ticket clerk for Eastern Airlines and British Overseas Air Corp. Lee struggled to kickstart her writing career at first, however, after some encouragement from her closest friends, she was able to begin writing her novel.

Airplane on a blue-colored world map

Working as an airline clerk was just the beginning of Lee’s journey in her writing career. If it was not for the support from her friends, who knows if To Kill a Mockingbird would even exist. It is crazy to think of this, but maybe some of these famous female authors thought of these jobs as something they would never get out of. For Lee, she was able to inspire all of us with her strength and perseverance. Harper Lee had her doubts as a writer, but through her own experiences, she was able to craft something beautiful.

5) Maya Angelou

Female Author: Maya Angelou

Undoubtedly, Maya Angelou was one of the most powerful female African American writers and civil rights activists out there. She was known for her unique autobiographical writing style and she also became Hollywood’s first female black director. Her famous novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, exemplifies her upbringing in the South which made a huge impact across the world.

Angelou was born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She had gone through traumatic experiences, yet writing was ultimately her saving grace. We all have or had an idea of a “dream job” and for Angelou, she wanted to be a street car conductor. Since Angelou had a driven mindset and worked hard for success, she was able to get her “dream job” as a street car conductor and received an astonishing award titled “Women Who Move the Nation”.

Female author, Maya Angelou, pictured as a street car conductor (18th and Third St. via Fillmore and 16th STS)

At the age of 16, Angelou (as pictured) was proud to be in her uniform and be a part of something amazing. After this job experience, she gave birth to her son and got married which led to her focus on other activities. She was a dancer, a musician, a singer, a screenplay writer, and ultimately, an inspiration for all. In her later career, she really began to focus on her writing which created a strong voice that was heard by many. Today, she is still known as someone who was intellectual, strong, and memorable.

As we can see, some of our inspirational female authors had to begin somewhere to become successful. It takes a lot of encouragement, strength, and perseverance to become an exceptional writer. These powerful women, had some surprising careers to start out with, but I firmly believe past job experiences shape these authors and prepare them for what is yet to come.

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