Top 10 Anonymous WomenJuly 06, 2012
My answer: anonymous. I chose this to represent all the women throughout the ages who weren’t given credit for their inventions, advances in science, art masterpieces, authorship, or other creative endeavors simply because they were women.
As I researched this, I learned how many women will remain unknown because men were given credit for women’s work. I learned how many women chose to publish or create under a man’s name knowing that they would receive much higher recognition, respect, and even compensation for simply being John instead of Jane. Unfortunately, I also learned that safety is also a factor — even today — especially for women bloggers in dangerous environments who dare not share their gender or actual names for fear of reprisal.
Check out my interview, which provides numerous examples of anonymous women and my sources. For now, I thought I’d give you my top 10 anonymous women from the brilliant ladies I learned about. I know there are many more, so please leave a comment for a woman (or women) who did not receive the recognition, respect, or credit she deserved.
In no particular order, these are my top 10 anonymous women:
- Though she wasn’t an anonymous woman, Virginia Woolf credited her unrecognized sisters when she wrote this in A Room of One’s Own: “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
- Writer Lucile Aurore Dupin, otherwise known as George Sand
- The Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Anne, and Emily — were authors who published under the male pseudonyms of Currer Bell, Ellis Bell, and Acton Bell.
- “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is a sentiment often attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire; it was actually written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre in 1906.
- Writer Mary Anne Evans, otherwise known as George Eliot
- The term “iron curtain,” used by Winston Churchill in a 1946 speech, was originally coined by Ethel Snowden in her 1920 book Through Bolshevik Russia.
- Rahila Khan was supposedly a Bangladeshi girl living in East London who wrote a series of stories, Down the Road, Worlds Away, in the 1980s. These were actually written by a middle-aged, white man named Toby Forward, who was furious when he was found out. It’s interesting that there’s clearly a reverse side of this anonymous coin.
- For her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen wrote as “A Lady” rather than use her own name.
- Women scientists throughout history. According to Kirsten Anderberg, “Sometimes women scientists published under male names to be taken seriously. The aftermath of this is that many great women scientists have been forgotten, as written works are often what connects us to our past.” Marie Curie — for whom AAUW provided the funds to obtain radium for her experiments — is one of the few historical women scientists we do know of. Curie had the courage to be “out” as a woman in that field, though she and her contemporaries were touted as strange exceptions to the all-male scientist rule.
- James Chartrand is actually a woman writer. She wrote a great piece about “outing” herself as a woman in 2009. The announcement, “Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants,” ends without telling her real name. It says, “So please. Just call me James.”