To celebrate their 25th anniversary, the Women’s Prize for Fiction teamed up with the Baileys to launch the Reclaim Her Name project. It consists in a collection of 25 books by women (many out of print) which had been previously published under a male pseudonym, and are now being published for the first time with the author’s birth name on the jacket (all the covers were also designed by women). The books have now been made available online for free, and hard copies have been donated to the British Library.
As Kate Mosse, co-founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, said, “I think there’s still a sense that men’s writing is universal, and women’s writing is for women (…) In countries where women were not even allowed to read or write, let alone publish, obviously, you simply couldn’t possibly publish as a woman, it was an illegal act. (…) Reasons range from straightforward discrimination or prejudices, to more modern cases, just simply wanting to be less visible as a woman or be more anonymous. It’s very important that any writer has the right to publish as they see fit.”
As you may imagine, this project checks all the boxes for me: a list of out of print books by women made avaiable online for free!
In some cases, though, I think that it can be problematic that the books are published under the authors’ birth names, because some of those women chose their pen names as a kind of persona – such as George Eliot, who continued to use her pen name even after her identity had been discovered. It is simplistic (and patronizing) to assume that all of these authors were forced to adopt male names in order to publish. There might also be cases of trans and queer erasure in the act of eliminating the male pseudonyms chosen by some of the authors, such as Vernon Lee, for example (this is a point open to debate, I know, but still – it is a point worth to be made).
Be that as it may, I am turning this list into (yet another) long-term reading project. The main thing for me is: it’s free books, folks! And many were even out of print!
If any of you fancy reading any (or all) of these titles along with me, please let me know! 🙂
Some of these books will be rereads for me, and I will update this post as I go along. You will be able to find a link to it on my projects page. Read books are marked as (✓). Favourites are in bold. My reviews, when available, will be linked below.
Here is the full list of the Reclaim Her Name books:
- ✓ Middlemarch by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
- Marie of the Cabin Club by Ann Petry (Arnold Petri)
- Indiana by Amantine Aurore Dupin (George Sand)
- ✓ A Phantom Lover by Vernon Lee (Violet Paget)
- The Life of Martin R. Delany by Frances Rollin Whipper (Frank A. Rollin)
- Keynotes by Mary Bright (George Egerton)
- Takekurabe (“Growing Up”) by Natsu Higuchi (Ichiyō Higuchi)
- Garden of Kama by Violet Nicolson (Laurence Hope)
- How White Men Assist In Smuggling… by Edith Maude Eaton (Mahlon T. Wing)
- Attila, My Attila! By Edith Cooper & Katherine Bradley (Michael Field)
- Ye Game and Playe of Chesse by Alice Dunbar Nelson (Monroe Wright)
- ✓ Painted Clay by Capel Boake (Doris Boake Kerr)
- For Our Country by Fatemeh Soltan Khanum Farahani (Shahein Farahani)
- Iras: A Mystery by Henrietta Everett (Theo Douglas)
- The History of Sir Richard Calmady by Mary Kingsley (Lucas Malet)
- Atla- Story of a Lost Island by Ann Smith (J Gregory Smith)
- Twilight by Julia Frankau (Frank Danby)
- The Silence Of Dean Maitland by Mary Tuttiett (Maxwell Gray)
- The Head Of Medusa by Julia Constance Fletcher (George Fleming)
- Some Emotions and a Moral by Pearl Richards (John Oliver Hobbes)
- Cecilia De Noël by Mary Hawker (Lanoe Falconer)
- Echoes from Mist-land by Aubertine Woodward Moore (Auber Forestier)
- Valerie Aylmer by Frances Tiernan (Christian Reid)
- A Diplomat’s Diary by Julia Cruger (Julien Gordon)
- The Roadmender by Margaret Fairless Barber (Michael Fairless)
You can download all of the 25 titles as PDFs or e-books for free here!
- Books read/ reread: 3/25 (Update: November 16th, 2020)
- Source of the list: Baileys
That’s it for now, folks! Have you read any of these books? Would you like to read this list along with me?