Women of the Beat Generation

This is a group of post-World War II American female writers who thrived between the late 50s and the early 60s, at the same time referring to their way of life as they documented and inspired. It consists of rebellious female writers who were interested in drinking, drugs, sex and creativity and lived in the shadows of their male counterparts.

According to Angela D. Baccala, it was difficult to draw a clear line between those who created and those who were a catalyst to other Beats’ creative processes. She further opines that these women were not just passive in their engagement with the male colleagues but some had actual literary careers. Apart from writing their own works, their influence can be seen in the works of the men of the Beat movement, with their bedfellows influencing them the most.

The following are among the prominent women of the beat generation.

Carolyn Cassady

She is famous for her relationship with Kerouac, Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. She was born to an English teacher and a biochemist. No famous work in writing literary significance came from her.

Joyce Johnson

She was a talented writer who met the Beat group through Elise Cowan. She had a relationship with Kerouac for two years during which On the Road was published leading to Kerouac’s depression. Some of her great works include Minor Characters for which she won an award, Door Wide Open and several novels and articles.

Diane Di Prima

She was a talented poet who was born in. She studied up to the second year of university when she dropped out. Her works include Memoirs of a Beatnik and her first poetry collection, This kind of bird flies backward. She edited Anita Baraka’s The Floating Bear.

Hettie Jones

She is more remembered for her marriage to Amiri Baraka with whom they published the first volume of Di Prima’s poetry. She wrote over twenty three books and started a magazine Yugen.

Eddie Parker

She wrote a memoir You’ll be okey about the Beat Generation.

Joan Vollmer

She led a chaotic life because of her drug use and was fatally shot by Burroughs. Other notable women include Denise Levertov, Joanne Kyger, Anne Waldman, Harriet Sommers and Elise Cowan among others.


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