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What is women’s writing? Is there a separate female discourse in universal literature? ; Is there any social obligation on the part of women’s writing towards feminism or society? Is there a grand narrative or even lineal progress from one generation to the next in recent times? While librarians might agree that these topics are crucial for the study of women’s literary output, their existence should also inform their collection purchases, which is more often than not trigged by request rather than subject interest. Because the widespread education of women was not common until the nineteenth century, the arena of english literature was once largely male dominated: the role of women was most often to inspire rather than to create. Since then, however, the literary contributions of women have become increasingly important. More and more women have become storytellers, poets and prophets, the authors of dreams and ideas–the voices to whom we listen. We are not arguing in this issue that “women need a literature that names their pain and allows them to use the emptiness in their lives as an occasion for insight rather than as one more indication of their worthlessness.” The claim that women’s poems and stories have not been told, heard, or encouraged, that women’s voices have either been ignored or stifled, is now a common cry and especially so among feminist theorists over the last several decades. This call has never rung more clearly than among women theologians and religion scholars, however, since institutional religion often bears the brunt of societal responsibility for patriarchy and the systematic marginalization of women, and whether women’s voices are heard or silenced. The reason why there is an abundance of women’s voices, stories, and opinions available today–one might claim–is because western women, at least, began to refuse the part of the silent female. Feminist scholars pushed, prodded, retrieved, reworked, demanded, or simply decided what women had to say was smart, engaging, necessary and going to be heard, like it or not. Patriarchy would have to either step aside or make room.
Mostly, patriarchy has made room–often only tiny spaces. It is still the house in which we say our piece and it shows little signs of stepping aside to share the public stage in either a mutual or integrated manner. At least for now, that is. We have compiled in this anthology a selection of contemporary women authors from all over the world to celebrate the importance of this literature. If however, this list still incomplete, we hope that those who have been selected and represented along all these pages and whose work and influences are as diverse as the women themselves, will give an idea about the 21th century women’s poetry and fiction.