Aphra Behn (circa 1640 - April 16, 1689), after John Dryden, was the most prolific dramatist of the Restoration, and considered to be the first professional woman writer.
Although not much is known of her origins, it is said that Aphra Behn was born in Wye, England, on July 10, 1640, to the wife of a barber. Her maiden name was possibly Johnson before marrying an illusive Mr. Behn. In early 1664 she travelled to an English sugar colony on the Surinam River, on the coast east of Venezuela, a region later known as Dutch Guiana. After the death of her husband, in 1666, she was dispatched as a spy to Antwerp by Charles II. A trade war had broken out between England and The Netherlands in 1665. It was she who first warned her king of the Dutch Government's intention to send an invading fleet up the Thames. Her exploits were not profitable, however, as he was slow on paying for her services, leading her to start writing her own plays in 1670. She died on April 16, 1689, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
It was while she was on the South American sugar colony that she met Oroonoko, an African prince who had been betrayed, enslaved and brought there from the African Gold Coast by the captain of an English merchant ship. She recounted her version of his tale a year before her death under the title of Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave. It is the circumstantial accuracy of her descriptions of Surinam that give her writing some verifiable credit. No doubt she has idealised her hero somewhat, but she does not seem to have exaggerated the extraordinary adventures of the young African chief.
Her other major work was The Rover; or The Banish'd Cavaliers.
Some of Aphra Behn's less-known works are available from the Women Writers Project.