Feminist Short Stories

The short stories compiled here will feature female characters who want equality. They could also have characters living with inequality or living stereotypical female lives, or have women who come to realize what they want.

The feminism in some of the stories is overt and in others it is subtle. The stories can also be interpreted from other perspectives, but for each story a case can be made that it supports feminist principles or is illustrating the inequality that women experience.

See also Women

The Yellow Wallpaper | Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A woman’s husband, a doctor, confines her to the upstairs bedroom of their summer house. He diagnoses her with a “hysterical tendency” and “nervous depression”. She chronicles her confinement in her journal; the treatment doesn’t have a positive effect on her condition.

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I Stand Here Ironing | Tillie Olsen

A mother irons while speaking on the phone with someone (a counsellor or teacher) who enquires about how they can help her daughter, Emily. The mother doesn’t think she has any special insight to offer. She recounts significant moments from Emily’s childhood and her own difficulties as a mother.

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A Jury of Her Peers | Susan Glaspell

A farmer in Dixon County is found murdered in his home. His wife is the primary suspect and she is held on suspicion of the murder. While the authorities investigate the scene, two of the men’s wives collect a few items for the accused.

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A Subject of Childhood | Grace Paley

Faith’s boyfriend, Clifford, is with her at her home along with her children. He play-fights with the kids. This leads to an argument and he accuses Faith of being a bad mother.

The Story of an Hour | Kate Chopin

A woman is given the news that her husband has been killed in a train accident. Over the next hour, she thinks about what her life will be and experiences a range of emotions.

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Don’t Call Me by My Right Name | James Purdy

Lois Klein has been married for six months. She feels she has given up a lot of her identity for her husband. She tells him that she wants to go back to using her maiden name.

The Falling Girl | Dino Buzzati

Marta, a nineteen-year-old, let’s herself fall off a skyscraper balcony after looking at the rich, important people in the city. She doesn’t fall in real-time; she has interactions on the way down and sees others falling as well.

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A Story for Children | Svava Jakobsdottir

A woman devotes herself to her home, husband, and children. She has a lot of work to do and is subject to the many whims of her kids. Eventually, her brain and heart are affected by the demands placed on her.

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The Friday Everything Changed | Ann Hart

In Miss Ralston’s small-town classroom, the boys always carry water from a pump at the railway station to the school. Carrying the water is a status symbol and a break from the daily routine. One day one of the girls challenges this tradition.

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Sweat | Zora Neale Hurston

Delia’s husband is abusive and a cheater. She supports him by washing clothes. He schemes to get rid of Delia so he can take up with his mistress.

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Uncles | Margaret Atwood

The protagonist’s father died when she was young. Her family is supported by her uncles. She becomes a journalist and is eventually very successful.

Weekend | Fay Weldon

Martha and Martin go with their kids to their cottage for the weekend. Martha prepares for the trip and gets the kids ready herself. She works outside the home and seems to do everything inside the home as well. The weekend isn’t really a vacation for Martha.

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Bluebeard’s Daughter | Louis Couperus

Fatma is the daughter of Bluebeard, a notorious pirate, now deceased. Fatma has married several times. Her father was known for killing his wives, so people get suspicious of her as well.

Solitude | Miguel De Unamuno

When Solitude is born her mother, Sanctuary, dies in childbirth. Her father sends her to another village to grow up; she returns when she is older but is treated badly, like her mother had been.

The Birthmark | Nathaniel Hawthorne

Aylmer, an accomplished scientist, marries the beautiful Georgiana. She has a small birthmark on her left cheek. Most men have viewed it positively while women have been critical of it. Aylmer becomes fixated with removing the mark.

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Rappaccini’s Daughter | Nathaniel Hawthorne

While studying at the university in Padua, Guasconti notices Beatrice, the daughter of Rappaccini, a renowned expert on poisonous plants. He has been using his daughter in experiments, making her immune to all poisonous plants. As a side effect, she can’t touch a person without harming them.

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Lust | Susan Minot

The female narrator reminisces about all the men she has had in her life. She realizes that it was different for a girl – society has expectations for women that don’t apply to men.

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Building Bridges | Andrea Davis Pinkney

Bebe lives with her grandmother, Mama Lil. Bebe gets an opportunity to work on a renovation project on the Brooklyn Bridge, but Mama Lil has old-fashioned ideas about what women can do.

Wants | Grace Paley

A woman runs into her ex husband outside a library where she is returning books that are eighteen years late. They gently argue about their life together and what made things go wrong.

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She Unnames Them | Ursula K. Le Guin

Someone has been persuading all the animals to give up their names. Most accept it without much resistance. It makes them feel closer.

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Unpopular Gals | Margaret Atwood

Three marginalized women – stereotypical characters – reveal their true thoughts and feelings.

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Boys and Girls | Alice Munro

The narrator relates a time from her childhood. Her father is a fox farmer; he raises foxes , skins them, and then sells the skins to fur traders. The narrator helps her father with some of the related chores. She prefers this work to helping around the house. She keeps hearing that she will soon do more around the house and behave in a more girl-like way.

Read “Boys and Girls”