Great Women From History – Aphra Behn


 Name: Aphra Behn


Why she rocks: Though she was born into a lower middle class family, she became the first professional female writer and playwright.  Her first novel, Oroonoko, was the first English work that painted slaves as people rather than property.  She also acted as a spy for King Charles II under the codename Astra and went undercover in Antwerp.  When she came back, the king refused to pay her for her work and she ended up in debtor’s prison.  At the end of her life, she had written eighteen plays, four novels, two collections of the short stories, and seven books of poetry.  Though there were women writers before her, Behn was the first to make a living from it.  After her death, she was buried in Westminster Abbey.  The inscription on her tombstone reads: ”Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be / Defence enough against Mortality.”

Quote: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” – Virginia Woolf

Because of this women…female writers, poets, and playwrights were more easily able to pursue careers, and all women were better able to speak freely.


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