“Why would anybody possibly want to publish their own work under a pseudo name? Why would someone be willing to give away credit for a novel they worked hard on and published on their own?”
Female authors used to do it extensively. Maybe it was to get extensive readership and to attract the male audience, to make their voice heard without any predefined bias. They could also get a taste of anonymity and freedom. Less judgemental reviews, more appreciation for the actual work further drove them to adopt gender-neutral/male pseudonyms. Or sometimes it was just to get the feel of a different perspective and thought process.
Some examples of such impressive females are:
Pseudonym: Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell
Historic works like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights were published by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë under false names.
It was done mainly to maintain confidentiality and focus on their novels and it’s true essence, without getting any external disturbance. Moreover, their books revolved around topics that were kept pretty hush-hush back in those days; violence, domestic abuse, passion. They touched on topics that were considered ‘unfeminine’.
To break into a man-based industry and to continue writing with complete freedom, Currer , Ellis and Acton Bell were born. All of the names preserved the initials of the sisters. Declaring themselves as women would have invited pre-conceived notions and prejudice, Charlotte and Anne Brontë declared.
Each of them had a different writing style, theme, emotion and touched unconventional topics, causing their name to be etched in history.
Fun fact: Their first collaborative work, “Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell” sold only three copies!
Mary Ann Evans
Pseudonym: George Eliot
Who hasn’t heard of George Eliot? But the more important question is, who has heard of Mary Ann Evans?
They both are one and the same. One of the most prominent poets and writers of the Victorian Era, ‘he’ was known for his detailed description of the scenery, spiritual and mental awareness, and realism.
Mary Ann Evans chose to adopt a masculine pen name to shield her work from just merely being a ‘romance’, something which was associated heavily with females. She wanted it to be treated in a serious and fair fashion, without any predefined mindset.
Also, it was done to avoid public disapproval as she was then in a relationship with a married man, George Henry Lewes. The title of a ‘disgraceful woman’ or ‘just a sexual scandal’ was unacceptable to her and the poems/novels she had worked so much on. She was an independent and intelligent woman and valued her status very much, something which was not supported by society in those times.
Moreover, she had achieved a lot of fame in her current profession as a translator and wanted to pursue writing with anonymity and pure focus.
Pseudonym: Robert Galbraith
“Harry Potter” is a name the whole world is familiar with. But there is another crime-thriller series which is written by the same author.
Well, it might be because it’s written by “Robert Galbraith”, a name adopted by JK Rowling in 2013. She adopted this name to get raw and truthful reviews, to explore an entirely different genre and to write something separate from the insanely successful series. It helped her to get a break from the stardom she had achieved and go back to the roots of pure writing. Anonymity helped her to get a different perspective and view and a different style of writing altogether.
She even gave Robert Galbraith a proper story background. He was projected as a man who was from the army. This explained how he knew about the field of crime and investigation in so much detail, and gave a cover for not disclosing his photograph.
Aside from this, when Joanne Rowling was publishing Harry Potter, she was suggested to use her short form “J.K. Rowling”. This was to encourage young boys to reach out and read it, and give a fair critical review.
Katharine Harris Bradley and Edith Emma Cooper
Pseudonym: Michael Field
The aunt-niece duo used to publish poetry and verse dramas under one name ‘Michael Field’. Their themes used to be usually erotic and passionate, and they used to venture into almost each and every domain.
The interesting part was they were lovers too, which was openly reflected in their works and poems. They used to declare their love for each other proudly and believed that using a single pen name brought them together and united them as one.
‘Field’ was even suggested for the Laureate, before it came to light that they were two women. It for obvious reasons backfired, yet these two women stayed together stronger than ever.
Mockery and criticism did not affect Bradley and Cooper, and they continue to write on topics which they truly believed in irrespective of what society said. They even have a joint diary, where they have written in detail about the ups and downs of being in a same-sex relationship!