What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?  Well, quite a bit actually considering pseudonyms are quite the rage in the literary world.  Today authors use pen names for a variety of reasons; to disguise what a prolific writer they are or possibly to keep their second job and/or personal life a secret.  However one of the big reasons for having a pen name, especially in the ‘Good old days’ was to mask your gender.   Since it’s Women’s History Month, I decided to take a look at some famous authors who some might be shocked to find out were, in fact, women.

Mary Ann Evans A.K.A. George Eliot (1819-1880)


George Eliot is a creator of classics, the author of titles such as Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda, Silas Marner, and more.    Everyone may know George Eliot, but Eliot is only a pen name for Mary Ann Evans.  Before publishing novels as Eliot, Evans was the assistant publisher for the Westminister Review, which is nothing to scoff at.  However, determined that her work would be taken seriously she assumed the pseudonym of George Eliot.  The choice of a pen name may also have been to keep her out of the public eye due to her affair with a married man, George Henry Lewes.

Karen Blixen A.K.A. Isak Dinesen (1885-1962)

Isak Dinesen who wrote the classic Out of Africa, a memoir of her time in first Kenya and then East British Africa.  Out of Africa was published in 1937 and covers 17 years of the life of Karen Blixen, Dinesen’s real name.    Blixen was well respected by her contemporaries (such as Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote).  She authored many stories and essays until her death in 1962.

Though today they are published under their given names, the Bronte sisters originally published under male pen names.  They became the Bell brothers; Charlotte became Currer, Emily became Ellis, and Anne was Acton.  The sisters are best known for the novels Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily), and Agnes Grey(Anne).

To find more female authors who have used male pseudonyms click here or check out our book display on the Main library’s first floor.

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