The Forgotten Heroines

Sometimes, stories are not merely about being enjoyable. Sometimes they have a more profound impact on the social fabric of society.

George Eliot wrote a book called Middlemarch. The book was talked about everything, from the pursuit of love and power to the dark road which mindless greed leads to. The book was acclaimed in many circles, some celebrated authors and editors even going so far as to say that it was the best ever in English literature. George Eliot received recognition and praise from all quarters.

It was later learned that George Eliot was not a real person, but merely a pseudonym. The real author’s name was Mary Anne Evans, a woman. When she was asked why she chooses to use a masculine pseudonym, she replied that she wanted people to take her work seriously and so she used a man’s name as a pseudonym.

There were many instances of a similar ilk in literary history. The Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily used male pseudonyms such as Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell while publishing their work. Like Mary Anne Evans, they too claimed that using male pseudonyms was simply to make sure that their work was judged and perceived impartially.

Even in the liberal and meritocratic world of literature, there was a time when things were not ideal. The very fact that some of the greatest authors of all time such as the Bronte sisters and Mary Anne Evans had to hide their gender while publishing novels is a great tragedy in itself. We have since then come a long way in recognizing talent irrespective of the gender of the writer, but it is important to recognize the struggles of many such writers to make sure nothing of the sort happens again.

Closer to home, we have Cornelia Sorabji, a woman with a number of distinctions and honors to her name. The first woman graduate from Bombay University, the first woman to study law at Oxford and furthermore, the first woman to practice law in India and England. However, Sorabji is best known today for her literary works which accentuated themes of feminism and the obtuseness of the prevailing patriarchy in India. Some of her stories even convey her frustration at Indian women who didn’t understand the concept of feminism and gender equality at the time.

However, she also had some divisive positions on issues. For instance, she believed India was better off with the British Raj. This position rubbed most Indians the wrong way at the time and it still does. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that her contribution to social reform and justice remains unbesmirched.

One of the most popular writers in modern time faced a similar problem. When Harry Potter was about to be released for the first time, the publisher insisted that the author JK Rowling use only her initials, not her first name, Joanne. The publisher reasoned by saying that the book series would be able to tap young male audience more vociferously if the author’s name sounded male.

Why is this still a problem? Generally, women authors are typecast into writing certain kind of stories. When Wuthering Heights first came out, everyone naturally assumed that the author was male because the story was deviously cunning and brutal. The astonishment thus was even more paramount when Emily Bronte emerged as the real genius behind the book. Why then have we not learned our lesson?

PS: We are not here to complain, but propose solutions. Through a systematic collection of stories which destroys typecasting of any sort, we wish that the readers can understand and appreciate the brilliance of female writers who wrote some of the greatest stories in known literary history.

Now, these stories are available on your fingertips. Now, you will experience the magic of stories with a simple scroll on your touch phone. Now, you have TaccoMacco where not only can read these great stories but publish on mobile with us, your own stories.