Nine Female Writers Who Had To Hide Their Gender
1. Keeping it in the family, the three talented Brontë sisters published their writing under the surname Bell. Emily published Wuthering Heights as Ellis Bell, Charlotte brought out Jane Eyre as Currer Bell and Anne used Acton Bell to release The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, as well as their joint poetry collections and other works.
2. A. S. Byatt was born Dame Antonia Susan Duffy, but has been publishing writing under her androgynous pseudonym since 1964. Her novelist sister uses her birth name professionally.
3. Vita Sackville-West’s gender-confusing pen name is a shortened version of the far flouncier The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, which she was born with. Famously the lover and muse of Virginia Woolf, Sackville-West published novels and poetry under her pen name, including The Edwardians and All Passion Spent.
4. Despite bringing out the best-selling book series in history (Harry Potter, if you hadn’t heard) in 1997, J.K. Rowling was advised by her publisher to swap her full name for two initials. Born Joanne Rowling, she chose ‘K’ from her grandmother Kathleen, which she adopted again during the Leveson Inquiry when she gave evidence.
5. Jane Austen published her debut novel Sense and Sensibility using merely ‘A Lady’ in 1811. The fact that she was happy to show herself as a woman, but not identify herself further, has mystified academics ever since.
6. Harper Lee dropped the ‘Nelle’ at the beginning of her name to publish her only novel, the autobiographical To Kill A Mockingbird.
7. George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans, and went on to author seven hugely successful novels, including Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch - which has been deemed the greatest novel in the English language by authors Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. She wanted to be taken seriously, and thus used her male pseudonym, and is still known as such today.
8. An author used to both different languages and pen names, Karen Blixen has published under Isak Dinesen, Osceola and Pierre Andrézel and is famous for her novel Out Of Africa.
9. Despite being deemed the “first modern writer for children” by biographer Julia Briggs, Edith ‘E.’ Nesbit published over 40 children’s books using her first initial, rather than her full name.
By Alice E. Vincent