Throughout history, many female writers have felt the need to write under a male pseudonym. The main reason they resort to using a male pen name is to mask their identity in order to be taken more seriously in the literary world, thanks to age-old stereotypes about what women are capable of writing. The practice of adopting a male nom de plume is prevalent even today when it comes to genres such as science fiction and crime thrillers. From historical authors such as Mary Ann Evans and Alice Bradley Sheldon to present day authors such as J.K. Rowling and Nora Roberts, the practice of women taking up a male pen name has certainly lasted.
1. J. K. Rowling -Robert Galbraith
When J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books, she clearly stated that her publisher, Bloomsbury, told her to use her initials although her real name is Joanne Rowling (no middle name). The K in her pen name was completely fabricated, mainly because they wanted her to have a gender neutral name. Even though her identity was eventually revealed, she did not lose any followers, but only gained more popularity – people were in love with the books and the gender of the author hardly mattered anymore. Last year, Rowling released The Cuckoo’s Calling as Robert Galbraith. Rowling told The Guardian that she wanted “to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback” on the book. Rowling has gone on record to say she enjoyed writing under a pseudonym and that it helped her understand the character in the crime thriller better. Fair enough, but we think her real name would have sold just as many copies!
2. Mary Ann Evans -George Eliot
A prominent author and journalist from the Victorian Era, she is widely known by her male pen name George Eliot. Mary Ann Evans wrote several important novels in the 19th century—including Middlemarch, considered by many to be one of the most significant novels in the English language. Evans was fairly upfront about her reasons for adopting a pseudonym: she wanted to be taken seriously as a novelist, and didn’t want to be pigeonholed as someone who only wrote romances (as many women published during her lifetime were).
3.Nora Roberts -J. D. Robb
While having published works under several pen names, Nora Roberts is best known by her male pseudonym J. D. Robb. Popular (under her own name) for several bestselling romance novels, Roberts decided to branch out into the world of detective fiction. Roberts has said that using a pen name offered her a new challenge, and also allowed her opportunities to reach non-Nora Roberts readers. It also has the benefit of not over-saturating the market with even more of her romance novels. She didn’t reveal her identity until the 12th instalment of the In Death series which has a total of 46 published works. The books’ theme is futuristic science fiction in which the protagonist is a police detective and like Rowling, she claims using a male pen name helped her mould the character.
4.Alice Bradley Sheldon -James Tiptree
When Alice began writing science fiction, she adopted the male pen name James Tiptree Jr. to camouflage her identity in the male-dominated field of science fiction. Tipttree proved to be a hit within the genre of science fiction, winning several awards for her novels and short stories. James Tiptree’s identity reveal was a shock to the literary world. Although her novels and short stories explored societal gender roles and were written from a largely feminist perspective, few suspected that the male name was actually associated with a female author. Before it was known that she was a woman, some prominent authors had actually written essays about how she could not have been a woman, leading to great embarrassment on their part when they found out she was a woman.
5.Louisa May Alcott -A.M. Barnard
Best known for her much-loved tale Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, spent much of her early career writing under the pen name A. M. Barnard for her more sensational work Behind a Mask. While “A.M.” isn’t explicitly male, this intentionally vague name certainly played into the assumptions of readers who would have been less inclined to read something written by a woman in those times. However, over time, Alcott became a voice for women’s suffrage and civil rights. Achieving great success as a female writer in a male dominated world, Alcott is a revolutionary icon in both the literary world and the realm of gender equality.
6.Charlotte Bronte -Currer Bell
As the author of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte is one of the most celebrated female novelists in all of history. Many, however, do not realize that this quintessential English novel was originally written under a male pen name. Charlotte Bronte published her works under the name Currer Bell. Charlotte later wrote that this was partially because she knew that readers were likely to think less highly of a book written by a woman. As was the case with Louisa May Alcott, this is sort of understandable: women certainly were not treated as men’s equals in the mid-19th century. Jane Eyre is regarded as one of the most influential works of literature in history and is now published under Charlotte Bronte’s true name.