5 Well Known “Male” Authors Who Were Really Women

Many people are used to picking up a good book and not really giving much thought as to who the author is. It is generally accepted these days that women can write books that are just as good as, and sometimes better than(!), those written by men.

However J.K Rowling might disagree, after all it is said that she was advised not to publish her Harry Potter books as Joanne Rowling because they might not appeal to boys. So with that in mind, I want to share with you 5 “male” authors who were really women.


5. George Sand aka Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin

"George Sand" at 60, by Nadar

“George Sand” at 60, by Nadar in 1864

Dupin was very unhappy with the manner in which women were treated, particularly within marriage, in 19th century France. In a bid to express her upset she wrote a series of novels, published under her pseudonym, that addressed these very issues. Her novels such as Indiana and Valentine were such expressions of these frustrations.

Dupin herself was known for breaking social taboos such as those that forbade women to wear trousers or smoke in public, as well as leaving her husband and having relationships with a string of men, which at the time was considered very bad form. She was probably one of the earliest feminists.


4. Acton Bell, Ellis and Currer aka The Bronte Sisters

Bronte sisters

The Bronte sisters, as painted by their brother

Almost everyone knows of the Bronte sisters, many of their works have inspired a multitude of on-screen adaptations, particularly those of Charlotte and Emily. What many people may not realise is that the sisters published some of their works under male pseudonyms, namely a collection of poetry, with Charlotte using Currer, Emily using Ellis and Anne using Acton Bell.

Of course they did publish other, successful, works under their own names such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, which in turn helped to create their legacy, which still survives to this day.


3. Harper Lee aka Nelle Harper Lee

Harper Lee

Harper Lee in 2007, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Harper Lee was in fact born Nelle Harper Lee, a tough, “tomboyish” character she found it tough to relate to other young women of her time, instead choosing to spend time by herself. When she wrote and published her famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, she opted to use the names Harper Lee, which led to many believing that a man had written the brilliant book which highlighted racism in America at the time.

There are many who think that it was this belief that a man had written the book, that led to it’s popularity.


2. A.M Barnard aka Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott

The Little Women author spent some of her literary career publishing under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard, until she felt comfortable within her chosen career at which time she began to use her own name. Her novels were inspiring and probably helped to set a precedent for other women looking to re-evaluate what their lives meant in 19th Century America.

It is also pretty clear that many of her novels were paralleled with real events in her own life, with the character of Jo being largely based upon Louisa herself.


1. George Eliot aka Mary Ann Evans

George Eliot

“George Eliot”

Eliot is the well-known author of such works as Middlemarch and Adam Bede and despite it being common knowledge that Eliot was in fact a woman named Mary Ann Evans, you can still buy the novels published under Eliot’s name.

Mary Ann was not immune to sensationalism in her time and was known for her long-term relationship with married man George Lewes, who lived with her until his death. He encouraged her to write and she did so, using her male pseudonym for fear she would not be taken seriously, this in turn led to acceptance of their situation by their peers.


Do you have a favourite female author who used a male pen name? If so, tell me about them in the comments below!

About Cassie Raine

Cassie is a home educating mum-of-two, living in the Kentish countryside. She has a keen interest in history, especially ancient history, literature, myths and legends, theology, environmental issues, self-sufficiency and current affairs. In her spare time she enjoys reading, country walks, knitting and learning new skills. She believes passionately that learning should be a pleasure, never a chore.
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