We’re willing to bet your high school English classes featured lots of novels by male writers, from Twain to Dickens to Hemingway. But their craft may not even have existed if it hadn’t been for Murasaki Shikibu, a Japanese woman widely considered to be the world’s first novelist. Shikibu was a noblewoman living in Japan around the year 1000 AD. She wrote a two-part novel called The Tale of Genji, which tells a riches-to-rags story about the son of a Japanese emperor forced to live life as a commoner. In addition to The Tale of Genji, widely considered to be a masterpiece of Japanese literature, Shikibu also wrote a book of poetry. A statue in Kyoto, Japan, commemorates this pioneering writer. Check out these other incredible female firsts, from Ancient Egypt to the 21st century.
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