Female Authors Finally Publish Under Their Real Names

The authors finally get a new book cover and the credit they deserve.
Saturday 22 August 2020
The Reclaim Her Name Inititiative has its pros and cons. Photo: Courtesy of Baileys and the Women's Prize for Fiction

Just like Chanel’s foray into winemaking, the alcohol brand Baileys is known for their Irish cream and have long been sponsors of the Women’s Prize for Fiction for a while now. This year, they are putting their foot forward by backing a little initiative to highlight female authors who used male pen names. 

Twenty-five classic novels by female writers, previously published under male pseudonyms, are being re-released for the first time with the real name of the author on the cover in an effort to “honour their achievements and give them the credit they deserve.”

Now in its 25th edition, the Women’s Prize for Fiction celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women. Amongst previous winners are the likes of Zadie Smith, Tayari Jones and Lionel Shriver.


The new Middlemarch cover with Mary Ann Evans in big letters. Photo: baileys.com


Bailey’s commissioned a team of researchers who considered more than 3,000 pseudonymous writers to be included in the collection. At the forefront of the collection are two very familiar names George Eliot aka Mary Ann Evans who wrote Middlemarch and  Vernon lee aka Violet Paget who penned the famed ghost love story A Phantom Lover.

Also included in this special collection are Marie of the Cabin Club by Ann Petry (aka Arnold Petri), Keynotes by Mary Bright (aka George Egerton), A Diplomat’s Diary by Julia Cruger (aka Julien Gordon), as well as Indiana by 19th-century author Amantine Aurore Dupin, who is best known under her male pen name George Sand. 

With their reclaimed names, Bailey has also given the books a facelift with new vibrant covers designed by female illustrators from around the globe including Brazil, Russia, Jordan and Germany. 

The books with the new covers will also be available online on Bailey’s website


The Pros 

“Baileys has been a sponsor of the Women’s Prize for Fiction for many years now and together we have been dedicated to honouring, celebrating and championing women’s writing. Together, we’re incredibly excited by the Reclaim Her Name campaign – it’s a lovely way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the prize, by doing what we always strive to do – empowering women, igniting conversations and ensuring that they get the recognition they deserve,” Kate Mosse, who is the founder and director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, commented.


Ann Petry aka Arnold Petry’s Marie of the Cabin Club. Photo: baileys.com


“When I was asked if my mother’s work could be included within such a worthy collection of books along with other impressive female writers, I was honoured. I’m incredibly proud of my mother’s work and it excites me that her writing has been introduced to a new audience through this collection. I know she would be thrilled to be a part of this as it’s an incredible conversation starter for such an important cause,” Liz Petry, daughter of Anne Petry, said in a statement.

For some the reclamation of the author’s names means recognition for the actual person behind the work, in Petry’s case, this seems to ring true. 


The Cons 

However, not everything is so black and white. While for some like Petry that see this as a second wave for the books to reach different audiences, some argue that not enough research was done for which books would be included. 

The Guardian has reported that there are disagreements about the inclusion of Vernon Lee and George Eliot in this collection. They quote Grace Lavery, an English professor at UC Berkeley from a thread on her twitter which you can find below. The argument is that not all of the writers who have used male pseudonyms have done so only in necessity and through force. 



Lee, it would seem, was a wild card of the times, a lesbian novelist that often looked at the psychological effect of the places she wrote about, who very much explored outside of the box and often corresponded under the name Vernon Lee instead of Violet Paget. It’s safe to say that it’s not as simple to just state that Lee was forced to use a pseudonym and instead of that it might have been more for the author to explore gender and sexuality. 


Vernon Lee 1881 by John Singer Sargent 1856-1925 Bequeathed by Miss Vernon Lee through Miss Cooper Willis 1935. Photo: Courtesy of Tate


The other issue Bailey’s face was the fact that the cover for The Life of Martin R Delany by Frances Rollin Whipper was not in fact Mr Delany, but instead, it was American social reformer, Frederick Douglass. 


Martin Robinson Delany before 1885. Photo: Wikipedia/Public Domain


American Abolitionist Frederick Douglass in his later years. Photo: Wikipedia/National Archives and Records Administration


In response, Bailey’s issued a long apology and changed the cover to Delany for the e-books. The mistake was attributed to human error on the part of the marketing agency and they have mentioned investigation into how the matter even happened in the first place. 


Source: AFP Relax News