Billed as “finally giving female writers the credit they deserve,” the “Reclaim Her Name” collection is re-issuing books written by women who used male pen names.
Twenty-five titles have been released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, one of the most prestigious literary prizes.
The series most notably includes the popular classic “Middlemarch,” which was written by Mary Ann Evans under the pseudonym “George Eliot.” Another title, “Marie of the Cabin Club,” is by Ann Petry (alias Arnold Petri), who is now known as the first African American woman author to sell over a million copies.
The collection is sponsored by Baileys, which is offering free e-book editions of the collection. The books will not be sold as physical copies, but box sets are being donated to libraries across the U.K. Female designers created the covers for these editions.
“Throughout history, many female writers have used male pen names for their work to be published or taken seriously,” wrote Baileys on its website. “ … [W]e have put their real names on the front of their work for the first time to honor their achievements.”
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Beyond the women writers represented in the collection, other best-selling authors with male monikers include Louisa May Alcott, the Brontë sisters, Erika Leonard (E.L. James) and Joane (J.K.) Rowling.
Women authors have long chosen to write under gender neutral or masculine nom de plumes to avoid sexist barriers in publishing and literary circles.
For instance, Evans chose the name “George Eliot” because she feared her work would not be taken seriously—in the 19th century, women writers were mostly associated with romantic novels. Even today, Rowling revealed in an interview that her publisher explicitly asked her to write under an initialized name, the reason being so that the now-iconic “Harry Potter” series would better appeal to both boys and girls.