Women Who Wrote as Men

Annette Magid's picture
March 5, 2020 to March 8, 2020
Massachusetts, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, British History / Studies, Literature, Women's & Gender History / Studies, Social History / Studies

The focus of this panel is to examine the motivation for women writing as men. Women wrote under a male pseudonym for a variety of reasons: Some reacted to sexism in the reception of authors; others were concerned about personal and familial issues. We will take up the question of when the climate of female acceptance as literary contributors changed, or has it? Did the women who chose a male nom de plume actually write in a male voice? How did their work alter the characterizations if it were read as having been written by a male rather than a female?
A long history haunts females who wanted to be successful writers and knew that their goals might not be realized if they submitted their manuscripts under their own name. Women including all three Brontë sisters who in the nineteenth century wrote a collection of poetry as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, which ironically failed to be successful but Emily’s Wuthering Heights was published with the name of the author identified as Ells Bell (1847); after Charlotte’s death in 1855, it was published in Emily’s actual name. Nelle Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960 as Harper Lee. Alice Bradley Sheldon wrote as James Tiptree, Jr. in the late 60s and she won a Nebula Award in 1973 for her Science fiction short story that was written under the name of Tiptree. Even twenty-first century writers such as Joanne (J.K) Rowling wrote as Robert Galbrath. Did their subterfuge enhance their careers? In what literary climate does gender play a role and when is it (or is it ever) insignificant?

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Contact Info: 

Professor Annette M. Magid, Ph.D.
State University of New York: Erie Community College    
Buffalo, NY


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