Murasaki Shikibu was a writer during the Heian era of Japan, born in 973. She is most famous for writing the epic classic Tale of Genji, which is considered to be the first novel ever written. Murasaki was from an aristocratic family. She disliked men and mostly kept to herself, spending much of her time at Imperial court writing new chapters for the Tale of Genji. She passed them on to friends, who in turn copied them out and passed them on to their friends to read and copy, and it quickly became popular. Women were thought to be too stupid to learn the traditional written Chinese kanji characters and were taught phonetic kana instead. But Murasaki learned Kanji easily and taught it to the princess Shoshi in secret, causing outrage when she became empress and used it publicly. Murasaki is largely credited for developing Japanese into a written language. She earned herself the nickname “Our Lady of the Chronicles”.
Sappho is a famous ancient Greek poet from the island of Lesbos around 615 BCE. She is one of few known women poets from such old times. She wrote passionate poems about the bittersweet struggles of being in love - most famously, with both sexes. She ran an academy for young, unmarried women, who were her circle of friends. The word lesbian comes from the island of her birth, and her name is the origin of the word sapphic. Neither word was used for homosexuality until the 19th century. Since then, Sappho has been attacked and ridiculed for her sexual preferences, and her reception is a huge part of her historical significance.