It makes me sad to think that we come from a history of sexism and gender inequality. Female writers have hidden their true gender behind masculine pen names for centuries! And even though things are much better now than they used to be, women still use their initials or male pseudonyms to avoid the lingering prejudice against female authors. Because of that, I want to celebrate women by showing you some books I bet you didn't know were written by women!
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Mary Ann Evans was better known by her male pen name George Eliot. Her first-ever publication was the essay Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, and it criticized the female writers. Male authors and readers applauded Eliot's attitude towards the "fairer sex," and the novel Middlemarch became one of the most celebrated books of the 19th century. Evans revealed her true identity to the world, and even though it shocked her readers, it had little effect on the critiques of her work. However, she continued to publish under the pen name George Eliot.
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
This was actually written by Karen Blixen. She had a lot of pen names over the course of her writing career, but her most well-known was Isak Dinesen. Blixen was a Danish author prominent in the mid-twentieth century. It is likely that Blixen chose to write under a pseudonym because she comes from a well known Danish family. She wanted to hide her identity, even though Out of Africa is actually an account of her own experiences on a coffee plantation in Kenya.
In Death Series by J.D. Robb
J.D. Robb is also known as Nora Roberts. She has used her real name to publish many romance novels, but when it comes to these famous crime novels, she published them under a pen-name. While it is not clear whether Roberts intentionally chose a masculine pen name, we all know that the world of suspense literature is dominated by male authors. However, when Robert’s true authorship was revealed, fans happily welcomed both of the author’s identities.
A Long Fatal Love Chase by A.M. Barnard
Louisa May Alcott began her career under the male pen name A.M. Barnard. While her most famous work, Little Women, was published under her real name, she gained considerable notoriety as Barnard by writing short stories for the newspaper. A Long Fatal Love Chase was written in 1866 and she struggled to get it published, even with a male pen name. After several revisions and attempts to publish it, she decided to set the manuscript aside. It wasn't until 1995 that Penguin Random House published it.
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
This is a wildly popular fantasy novel, with equal parts rom-com and paranormal mystery. It was published under the pen name Magnus Flyte, but it was actually written by two women! Christina Lynch and Meg Howrey collaborated to write this novel and decided to publish it under the name of Magnus Flyte because "We had both read a raft of articles talking about how men don’t buy books written by women”.
I like to believe we're heading towards a better future. As an aspiring author myself, I hope that one day this sexism is gone from the literary world we all enjoy!
If any of these authors caught your attention, you can buy their books in our bookshop!