The woman from 1670 is Aphra Benn, born in 1640. A well known
dramatist, she was considered to be one of the first professional woman
writers of England. Born near Canterbury, the daughter of a barber,
Aphra lived an exciting life, allegedly travelling to South America, then
returning to England to marry a European merchant. The short-lived
marriage and her attraction to other women, which was reflected in her
writings, advanced the popularity of her works three centuries later.
During the Anglo-Dutch War, she served as a spy, becoming the lover to a
Dutch royal, from whom she extracted secrets that she passed on to
England. Poorly paid by King Charles, she wound up in a debtor's
prison, but when an unknown person paid her debts, enabling her release,
she began writing for a living, producing novels, poems, plays, and
pamphlets. Her most popular works included "Love Letters Between a
Nobleman and his Sister." She wrote that she had led a life "dedicated
to pleasure and poetry." This combined with her sexual liberation and
her writings about racial and gender oppression, have kept her works in
the public eye despite the passing of the centuries.
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