a vague impression of pink


“We did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called ‘feminine’ — we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.”

Charlotte Brontë, in her explanation of why she and her two sisters wrote under the male pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, published in Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell for the 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights.


Catherine Nichols has found that submitting her manuscript under a male pseudonym brought her more than eight times the number of responses she had received under her own name.

“It’s assumed that women writers will not write anything important – anything truly serious or necessary, revelatory or wise.”

“Our work [is] pruned back until it’s compact enough to fit inside a pink cover.”

Catherine Nichols in an essay published in Harpers, 2015


by Unknown artist, watercolour, 1850

Unknown woman, formerly known as Charlotte Brontë by Unknown artist
watercolour, 1850 © National Portrait Gallery, London

7 comments on “a vague impression of pink

  1. This post stuck with me. There’s a ton of studies showing women buy and read more novels than men which leaves me to wonder why women don’t buy more novels written by women. If women still have to disguise themselves to be taken seriously maybe we need to consider why women tend to tear each other down nowadays. There was a recent study in the US which found there was a queen bee syndrome in corporate America. When a woman made it to the top she actively sought to undercut her female underlings.

    I can’t blame it all on a male conspiracy without feeling by doing that I’m assuming women aren’t smart enough to think for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] via: Pippa Rathborne’s, A Vague Impression of Pink […]


  3. […] The other, under that, or above, I can’t see that far, I don’t understand technical details ’cause I’m a girl, and the light refracts so prettily, I wonder if I should buy that pink hat, is a rose-pink coloured barrier to having your work taken seriously. […]


  4. PJR says:

    Thank you, Lelius, for the recommendation – I take anything you suggest seriously, which is exactly what the 19th century women writers who wrote under cover of male names wanted. I will follow the link to Lydie Dattas at the first opportunity.


  5. erickeyswriter says:

    Disappointing but not surprising.

    I wish I could say I wasn’t complicit in this, but I have done things just as shallow and stupid.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lelius says:

    I think you have to know, if you did not know her yet, Lydie Dattas, a wonderfull woman, contemporaneous french writer and poetess. (I posted some of her poetry on “Perles”). I ignore if she is translated in English, but, if you can find “The Spiritual Night” published in 2003, I really encourage you to read it.
    “La Nuit Spirituelle” responded to the provocation of the great poet Jean Genet, a friend of her husband, who had confessed his hatred of women. Intelligence and sensitivity finely combined in one mighty woman.

    By way of introduction to her, here is an interview with her translated into English.


    Good summer !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. beetleypete says:

    I read Catherine’s article, and confess that I was not surprised. I suppose I could mention many writers who were female, with obvious female names or pen names, who have enjoyed great success? But I won’t, because I know that you know who they are or were anyway. And they have rarely achieved the recognition enjoyed by male writers.
    Perhaps being androgynous is the way forward? J.K. Rowling springs to mind.

    It isn’t fair. But life rarely is, in my experience.
    Always a pleasure to see you posting of course. Please keep going. x

    Liked by 3 people

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