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Anna Akhmatova
1889-1966
Russian Writer




Recognized at her death as the greatest woman poet in Russian literature.

Her mostly short poems express an intensely feminine aspect of frustated tragic love. Her first husband got shot by the secret police, her son got arrested and another husband died in prison.

Muzzled by the state she secretly composed a long poem, Requiem, dedicated to Stalin's victims. Denounced by the Soviet authorities as 'alien to the Soviet people' she was rehabilitated in 1959 and her collected verses were published in 1965.

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Sofonisba Anguissola
c. 1529-1625
Italian Artist




Sofonisba Anguissola was the eldest of six daughters who all exelled at painting, music and writing.

She became one of history's most remarkable artists and her portraits earned the praise of Michelangelo. In old age she advised the Flemish painter Van Dyck.

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Annie Besant
1847-1933
British Reformer




Annie Besant was born in India, but grew up in England. There she agreed to marry a young clergyman. After leaving her husband Annie Besant rejected Christianity and in 1874 joined the Secular Society.

She wrote a book advocating birth control, which let her to be charged with publishing material that was "likely to deprave or corrupt those whose minds are open to immoral influences"

In the 1890s Annie Besant became a supporter of Theosophy, a religious movement founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1875.

Theosophy was based on Hindu ideas of karma and reincarnation with nirvana as the eventual aim. Annie Besant went to live in India but she remained interested in the subject of women's rights.

President of the Theosophical Society from 1907, she wrote an enormous number of books and pamphlets on theosophy. She traveled (1926-27) in England and the United States with her protege Krishnamurti.

She also founded the Indian Home Rule League to promote Indian independence.

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Emily Bronte
1818-48
English Novelist



Emily Bronte is the best known member of a great literary family - three sisters and a brother - who is remembered for her towering novel 'Wuthering Heights'.

This novel, a story-within-a-story, is one of the most intense novels written in the English language. Emily Bronte introduced an unreliable narrator, Lockwood. He constantly misinterprets the reactions and interactions of the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. More reliable is Nelly Dean, the housekeeper, who has lived for two generations with the novel's two principal families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons.

Wuthering Heights has been filmed several times. William Wyler's version from 1939, starring Merle Oberon as Cathy and Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff, is considered on of the screen's classic romances.

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Elizabeth Browning
1806-61
English Poet



Elizabeth Browning's repudation rests mainly upon her 'Sonnets from the Portuguese', love poems that are gentle yet passionately sincere. She gave the sonnet, long considered a masculine form, a woman's interpretation.

The American poet Edgar Allan Poe was inspired by Barrett Browning's poem Lady Geraldine's Courtship and, specifically, borrowed the poem's meter for his poem 'The Raven'. Poe said that "her poetic inspiration is the highest - we can conceive of nothing more august. Her sense of Art is pure in itself."

Elizabeth Browning spent the last 15 years of her life in Italy and died in Florence.

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