This PressBook attempts to show that many learning objectives of a college English Composition course can be achieved through the process of writing a full autobiography.

A full autobiography is the telling of one’s own life story from birth to the present. By using the term “full autobiography,” I am not suggesting that students write a book of hundreds of pages. That would be an ambitious expectation to set for any college writer!

This curriculum guide proposes that by semester’s end, each student will compose a 4000- to 5000-word full autobiography.

This book is divided into two sections. Section One is made up of eleven autobiographically-themed writing prompts. The first prompt begins with what I am calling a “Ground Zero” writing activity. The final one I’ve termed “The Destined Goal.”

Between Ground Zero and The Destined Goal are nine distinct writing prompts, each labeled as a Point of Departure (P of  D) to be launched from “Ground Zero.” These P of D activities invite students to engage in types of writing often found in full-length autobiographies. Each P of D activity is illustrated by one or two excerpts from the autobiographies anthologized in Section Two.

Section Two contains an anthology of six autobiographies written by remarkable women of the 19th and early 20th century. The books are presented chronologically by the birthdate of the author:

  1. Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (Publication Date: 1857; author Mary Seacole, 1805 – 1881)
    Link to free audiobook:
  2. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself (Publication Date: 1861; Harriet Jacobs, 1813 -1897)
    Link to free audiobook:
  3. The Autobiography of Mother Jones  (Publication Date: 1925; author Mary G. Harris Jones, 1837 <baptized> – 1930)
    Link to free audiobook:
  4. The Story of a Soul (Publication Date: 1898; author St. Therese of Lisieux, 1873 – 1897)
    Link to free audiobook:
  5. A Daughter of the Samurai  (Publication Date: 1925; author Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto, 1874 – 1950)
    Link to free audiobook: Yuja, an audio and video management platform
  6. The Story of My Life (Publication Date: 1902; author Helen Keller, 1880 – 1968)
    Link to free audiobook:

Most any complete, well-written autobiography, vintage or contemporary, could be used to illustrate the writing strategies discussed in this PressBook. That’s because a compelling life story is more than a linked chain of autobiographical incidents centering only on the author. Yes, a full autobiography does contain many such stories; however, those stories are frequently combined with various other forms of writing: memoir, profile, and evocations of nature, to name a few.

I chose the autobiographies of these six women for a few reasons. First and foremost, their life stories are fascinating. Moreover, each woman narrates her life in a unique way. And when viewed as a whole, their stories represent strikingly diverse social, cultural, geographic, and religious worlds.

Another good reason for including these six autobiographies in the anthology is that all of them are available as free Public Domain audio-recordings. Five of the six books can be accessed at by going to the links noted above.

The Librivox objective is “to make all books in the public domain available, narrated by real people and distributed for free, in audio format on the internet.” Access to these recordings could benefit auditory learners, blind and low-vision readers, and English Language Learners. Combining print and audio would also assist readers in how to pronounce unfamiliar words and to “feel” the cadence and rhythm of sophisticated sentences.

Learn more about the mission and core principles of at





Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Women's Autobiography Copyright © by dixonk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book