One name has graced the cover of Middlemarch, one of the great British novels, since its publication 150 years ago. But it isn't that of the author. George Eliot is the male pen name of Mary Ann Evans, whose work might not have been accepted without it. It's an issue now on display with the "Reclaim Her Name" book set, a collection of 25 books from female authors with male pseudonyms, released for the first time under the author's true name to mark the 25th anniversary of the Women's Prize for Fiction. "Throughout history, many female writers have used male pen names for their work to be published or taken seriously," reads a statement on the award program's website, noting the goal is to "honor their achievements and give them the credit they deserve," per CNN.
Middlemarch is included along with A Phantom Lover by Violet Paget (Vernon Lee), Indiana by Amantine Aurore Dupin (George Sand), and Marie of the Cabin Club by Ann Petry (Arnold Petri). Each name is featured prominently on new book covers from female designers, per the BBC. The novels are also available for free as e-books via sponsor Baileys. Liz Petry, daughter of the late Ann Petry, the first African-American woman to sell more than a million copies of a book, says her mother "would be thrilled to be a part of this as it's an incredible conversation starter for such an important cause," per the Guardian. Some female authors still feel pressure to use a male name. In 2017, JK Rowling said her first publishers were "trying to disguise my gender" in advising her to use her initials, per CNN. (Read more books stories.)