We, women, admire, applaud, and appreciate the fight of other women, so we can now benefit from greater freedom and equality.
We are thankful for those who dared for us, were bold and courageous, smart and resilient.
As for me I choose to list a few female authors who didn’t write under their real names or full names.
Many authors choose a nom de plume, including men.
In the case of women it has always been to gain access to publication, credibility, and a wider readership.
In the past, the publishing world used to be exclusively male and most men wouldn’t have considered women as real writers. In addition, some female writers wrote stories, novels, essays, and poems that were considered of bad taste for women, either because they were too graphic or critical of their era. Not ladylike.
Because they were women and yet wanted to be published, the following women often picked a male penname.
Because I was born and brought up in France, I start with a French writer.
1- George Sand was born Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin. She happens to be one of the most prolific French authors from the 19th century. Both her writing that blends love stories to social class issues and her unique lifestyle stirred controversy. She dressed like a man, smoked in public, and had many lovers. Was it that unique or just the way men lived?
2- Vernon Lee was born in France in 1856 from British parents. Versatile writer whose work spans from travel writing to supernatural fiction and critiques of art, Lee was also a feminist and a liberal, two factors that would have made this author’s career much more difficult under the name of Violet Paget.
3- George Eliot was in fact Mary Ann Evans. Born in 1819, the English-born writer thought that a male penname would discourage female stereotyping.
4- Although Little Women was published under Louisa May Alcott’s real name, she wrote gothic thrillers using A.M. Barnard as a penname. In the late 19th century if women wrote at least they had to write proper literature.
5- Hard to believe that the great Brontë sisters first published under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, and yet they did, knowing that the type of stories they wrote would not go well if anyone knew that they were the product of women’s imagination.
6- Last but not least the beloved mega star JK Rowling: it is a well-known fact that using the initials JK instead of her female first name was a publisher’s decision. Boys wouldn’t have picked and read Harry Potter if they had known a woman wrote it.
Really? Come on! I thought when I discovered this fact after the Series had reached international recognition. The men in my life don’t care if it’s a woman or a man behind a book, as long as the story is good.
When I was a little girl I thought that my beloved Enid Blyton was a man. Worse, I never even thought the author could be a woman.
Why is that? Sadly because as a seven-year-old girl growing up in the late 60s in rural France I had already assimilated and accepted the fact that adventure books could only be written by men.
By the way the author full name was in fact Enid Mary Blyton.
The good news is that I loved The Famous Five so much that I started to write, mimicking the writer’s style.
The style of a Woman Writer.
Do you know of other female writers who opted for a male nom de plume?
If you are a woman and write, have you changed your real name, shorten it or slightly altered it so it wouldn’t hint at your gender?
P.S. What if I dropped the E at the end of Evelyne? Spelled “Evelyn” my first name can be male and female.