Since the beginning of time women were opressed by society. They had to comply to a specific female view made up by their male counterpats. To sustain the pressure given by society, women had to hide their personality, their body and even their souls. Today I wanna speak about the hideng womens in literature. Multiple examples will be given to explain why women had such an important role in literature and how they had to hide their gender under male pseudonyms.
Jane Austen used to sign herself ‘A Lady‘, or ‘the author of Pride and Prejudice‘ for reason of personal decency. Jane’s biggest supporter was her family. Her father was the first to try and get her published unseccesfuly. Fortunately Jane’s brother was later able to get her work to the public (I’m really thankful). She bacame instantly famous even by the court of King George IV, to whom she dedicated ‘Emma’.
Mary Ann Evans wanted to distance herself from the classic novelists of the time by making sure that her works were taken seriously. She used the male pseudonym of George Eliot, which got her really famous as a write. For mysterious circumstances everybody, still now, continue to call her George.
The Brontë sisters for years were the Bell brothers. I really love that they decided to stay as siblings in their fake identity. Currel, Ellis and Acton, were in facts Charlotte, Emily and Anne. In 1850, after the sisters death Charlotte decided to reveal the truth behind the pseudonyms. Their choice of using fake names was born because of the fear of possible public prejudice against women authors.
Decades earlier, in 1818, the first edition of Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein was published anonymously. This is not exactly a pseudonym, but not even a name.
Louisa May Alcott was another women who decided to use a fake name. Little Women was written by A. M. Barnard according to the public.
Nora Roberts, author of romantic novels, wanted to devote herself to crime fiction, she chose the male pseudonym J. D. Robb to reach a new groups of readers.
My favorite case is Alice Sheldon. For several years she wrote under the name of James Tiptree, earning the admiration of male colleagues. After ten years of work and many awards she decided to come clean, leaving many angry female sci-fi writers who had struggles to break the prejudice that women were not able to write science fiction. The men were mostly shocked because they didn’t notice the deception, like Silverberg, that use to describe Tiptree writing “inevitably manly”. WHAT AN EPIC FAIL !!! Unfortunately, once she confessed her true identity she did not win more prizes.
And finally, last but not least Joanne Rowling. The woman who gave birth to Harry Potter was forced by her publisher to hide under the two letters J.K. The prejudice about women who write fantasy was still really strong even if it was 1997. Now Joanne is one of the most rich and powerfull women in the world, in 2013 she published the book “The Cuckoo’s Calling” followed by “The Silkworm” and “Career of evil” with the male pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. The books didn’t get a big success until she revealed the real identity of the writer. With this move she established herself as a powerful name in literature, proving that a female name could finally sell books without prejudice. Well done J!