Five Classic Authors Who Wore Women’s Underwear

And one that perhaps didn't wear any at all

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Ward Catalog

When I see a book in a bookstore, I take it for granted that that author name listed with the title is the same one that appeared on the first edition. But that’s not always the case. Some writers withhold their names from a book’s original release because they don’t want the embarrassing content to be associated with the tamer works produced under their real names. Others are bound contractually to certain publication limits under specific names. But for a few women, especially in centuries past, it was all about being taken seriously.

Here are five such female authors who published their major works under assumed, and often male, names.

  • Mary Ann Evans – I had never heard this woman’s name before, but her pen name, “George Eliot,” is world famous as the nom de plume affixed to the Victorian-era novel Middlemarch. She used the male moniker primarily to prevent readers from assuming that she was producing romance novels. Calling the book “Death, War, and Pestilence” might have helped as well.
  • Charlotte Brontë – Today, readers easily associate the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) with their Gothic prose and difficult lives. Clearly, the dots above the “e” in their last names were an attempt to put a happy face on their dark works. But originally, the names didn’t appear on their writings at all. Charlotte published her masterpiece, Jane Eyre, using the pseudonym “Currer Bell.” Emily and Anne followed suit, employing the names “Elias Bell” and “Acton Bell” respectively. Not to be outdone by her siblings, Charlotte also used the male manly masculine name “Lord Charles Albert Florian Wellesley” for another one of her books.
  • Karen Blixen – The author of Out Of Africa published the book under the pen name “Isak Dineson.” Come to think of it, I can’t tell if that’s a man’s name or not. That’s all right, because she also wrote using the name “Pierre Andrézel” just to make it clear.
  • Mary Chavelita Dunne Bright – In one of the strangest uses of a male pen name, Ms. Bright produced her short stories and novels under the name “George Egerton.” The use is strange because Bright was a notable “New Woman,” a late-nineteenth-century term for a feminist. She was an active suffragette, and held other typically feminist ideals.
  • Louisa May Alcott – Known today for her friendship-themed chick-lit-esque Anne of Green Gables series Little Women, Alcott wrote some of her other works under the neuter name “A. M. Barnard.” But then again, she also used the pseudonym “Cousin Tribulation,” so perhaps she was just having fun with the reading public.

As for the author who didn’t wear any underwear at all, well, I can’t prove anything, but Lewis Grassic Gibbon, author of the Scots Quair trilogy, was from Scotland, and Scots sometimes wear kilts. Need I say more?

[Image Credits: Montgomery Ward, I think.]

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Tim Patrick is a software architect and developer with more than 30 years of experience in designing and building custom software solutions. He is the author of multiple books on Microsoft technologies, and was selected as a Microsoft MVP for his support to the programming community. Tim earned his degree in computer science from Seattle Pacific University.

5 COMMENTS

  1. LM Montgomery (of Canada) wrote the Anne of Green Gables series, a series of books about a lively girl in the early twentieth century, Prince Edward Island, Canada, who is adopted by an elderly brother and sister. Louisa May Alcott, a Transcendentalist of Concord, Massachusetts, and friend of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote Little Women, a novel about a quartet of sisters growing up in Concord during the American Civil War.

  2. Also, there’s no such thing as “chick lit.” Literature, by a man or woman, is “literature.” To call it “chick lit” is to suggest that the standard for literature is literature that is attributed to a man, and that a woman’s book ought to be singled out as, not only female, but written by and for “chicks.”

    Off-putting.

    Anne of Green Gables is considered a “children’s classic,” as is Alcott’s Little Women.

  3. I don’t think he was meaning to be off-putting at all. Chick-lit is actually considered a genre to many, and it has nothing to do with whether a man or woman wrote it, because both can. It’s just a different category a book can be placed under.

    Tim – I really love these blog posts! I’ve always wondered how these kinds of lists are made, so I really enjoy seeing your strategy for picking these books.

  4. Oops, stupid me. Of course I meant Little Women for Alcott. I’ve actually read several of the Anne of Green Gables books, and part of Little Women. I’ve been so busy preparing for this reading project that the books are starting to become a blur. I’ll edit the article to correct the error.

    Calling all fiction writing “literature” is true, but that doesn’t help when it comes time to organize a Barnes and Noble, or narrow down a list of books to a representative sample. Besides, I was just having some fun. I hope the fun remains once I’m buried 6,000 pages deep in these books!

  5. So sad about the end of Montogomery’s life. The Anne of Green Gables books are charming and wonderful easy reading for cold winter nights or soft summer days.

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