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Where were the women with male pseudonyms?

April 24, 2013
Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia (1822 or 1824-1889)

Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia (1822 or 1824-1889)

[Update: many thanks to Languagehat for useful additions, several of which have been incorporated into the main post – see comments below.]

Sof’ia Engel’gardt (Ol’ga N.) and Natal’ia Shalikova (E. Narskaia) chose female-sounding pseudonyms. Engel’gardt, after her marriage, could have signed her own name as the ambiguous “S. Engel’gardt” but opted for the markedly female “Ol’ga N.” This made me try to think of any nineteenth-century Russian women writers with male pseudonyms, in the tradition of George Sand or George Eliot or Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. I know Zinaida Gippius sometimes signed her works “Anton Krainii,” but if we think of her [and Vera Gedroits, see comments] as from the twentieth century, who’s left? The only one I could think of was Avdot’ia Panaeva (N. Stanitskii).

On further inspection I found three more (the Khvoshchinskaia sisters), plus one (Soboleva) who wrote as “V. Samoilovich,” which could be a man’s or woman’s name but an unknowing reader might assume was a man’s. [Update 1/2/2014another one I left out is Marko Vovchok.]

The lists below probably have mistakes – I bet some of these writers used pseudonyms I don’t know about, and of course there are women writers not on this list. I’m tempted toward this hypothesis: women writers born from the late eighteenth century to about 1807 tended to use their own names; those born after 1808 often, but not always, used pseudonyms; those born in the 1820s and early 1830s were most likely to choose a male pseudonym. If that holds up it would suggest that the 1840s and 1850s were the time male pseudonyms were most attractive, which could reflect the popularity of Sand (1804-1876) in Russia then.

Also, female pseudonyms seem popular among women with foreign surnames or aristocratic backgrounds.

Published under one or more male pseudonyms:

Avdot’ia Iakovlevna Panaeva, née Brianskaia (1820-1893), pseudonym: N. N. Stanitskii

Nadezhda Dmitrievna Khvoshchinskaia, married name Zaionchkovskaia (1822 or 1824-1889), sister of S. D. and P. D. Khvoshchinskaia, pseudonyms: V. Krestovskii,* V. Porechnikov, N. Vozdvizhenskii, N. Kh.

Sof’ia Dmitrievna Khvoshchinskaia (1824-1865), sister of N. D. and P. D. Khvoshchinskaia, pseudonym: Ivan Vesen’ev

Praskov’ia Dmitrievna Khvoshchinskaia (1832-?), sister of N. D. and S. D. Khvoshchinskaia, pseudonym: S. Zimarov

Mariia Aleksandrovna Vilinskaia (1833-1907), also Markovich by her first husband and Lobach-Zhuchenko by her second, pseudonym: Marko Vovchok

Published anonymously or under ambiguous pseudonyms:

Sofiia Pavlovna Soboleva (1840-1884), pseudonym: V. Samoilovich

Published under one or more female pseudonyms:

Countess Evdokiia Petrovna Rostopchina (sometimes spelled Rastopchina) (1811-1858), pseudonyms: D-a, R-a, A., —a

Elena Andreevna Gan, née Fadeeva (1814-1842), pseudonym: Zeneida R–va

Elizaveta Vasil’evna Salias-de-Turnemir, née Sukhovo-Kobylina (1815-1892), sister of A. V. Sukhovo-Kobylin, pseudonym: Evgeniia Tur

Princess Natal’ia Petrovna Shalikova (died 1878), pseudonym: E. Narskaia

Nadezhda Stepanovna Sokhanskaia (1823 or 1825-1884), pseudonym: Kokhanovskaia

Sof’ia Vladimirovna Engel’gardt, née Novosil’tseva (1828-1894; the dates 1808-1882 appear to be an error), sister of E. V. Novosil’tseva, pseudonym: Ol’ga N.

Ekaterina Vladimirovna Novosil’tseva (died 1885), sister of S. V. Engel’gardt, pseudonym: T. Tolycheva

Ol’ga Petrovna Martynova (1832-1896), pseudonym: Pavlova Ol’ga

Iuliia Ivanovna Iakovleva, married name Vilenkina (1858-1910), pseudonym: Bezrodnaia

Published exclusively or almost exclusively under her own name:

Princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova, née Vorontsova (1743-1810)

Ekaterina Sergeevna Urusova (1747-after 1817), cousin of M. M. Kheraskov

Anna Petrovna Bunina (1775-1828)

Anna Alekseevna Volkova (1781-1834)

Nadezhda Andreevna Durova (1783-1866) – note that Durova used male pseudonyms as a soldier, but AFAIK not as a writer

Princess Zinaida Aleksandrovna Volkonskaia, née Belosel’skaia (1789-1862)

Mariia Semenovna Zhukova (1805-1855)

Karolina Karlovna Pavlova, née Ianish (1807-1893)

Irina Pavlovna Volkova, née Debil’ (active 1854-1861)

Iuliia Valerianovna Zhadovskaia (1824-1883)

Ol’ga Andreevna Shapir (1850-1916)

Valentina Iovovna Dmitrievna (1859-1947)

Published under a mix of female and male pseudonyms:

(no one I’ve found)


* There really was a male writer named Vsevolod Krestovskii (1840-1895). I assume the older Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia started using “V. Krestovskii” when Vsevolod was still a boy.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2013 11:13 am

    Under male pseudonym:
    Vera Gedroits, wrote as Sergei Gedroits

    Under female pseudonym:
    Natalya Neelova, wrote as “девица H. H.”
    Юлия Ивановна Яковлева, в замужестве Виленкина (1858—1910), wrote as Безродная
    Elizaveta Vasilyevna Salias De Tournemire, wrote as Evgeniya Tur

    Under own name:
    Yekaterina Urusova (poet, born 1747)
    Yekaterina Vorontsova-Dashkova
    Zinaida Volkonskaya
    Valentina Dmitryeva (who sounds like a very interesting writer; her 1909 story “Razboiniki” “condemns Russian treatment of Caucasian peoples and underlines the ephemeral nature of Russian power in the region”)
    Nadezhda Durova

    I’m afraid some of those are after your time period — I got carried away!

    Bunina did publish; in fact, she had a three-volume Sobranie sochinenii (1819-21).

    • April 25, 2013 11:48 am

      Oops – I can’t believe I left out Evgeniia Tur!

      Durova is up there. I was going to include Urusova with Bunina and Volkova, but decided she was too early (died in the eighteenth century). I thought I knew Z. A. Volkonskaia, but I was confusing her with her husband’s brother’s sister, M. N. Volkonskaia.

      Dmitrieva does sound like an interesting writer! Even her dates (1859-1947) are interesting – how sadly unusual to find someone whose life spans all the revolutions, the purges, and both world wars, who was older than Chekhov and outlived Tsvetaeva.

      Thanks for all this! I’ll update the post soon (and perhaps adding to it over time as I find others or if more are pointed out to me).

  2. April 25, 2013 12:51 pm

    (died in the eighteenth century)

    Apparently not; the Dictionary of Russian Women Writers (pp. 683-4) says “In 1811 Urusova became an honorary member (pochetnyi chlen) of the Society of Lovers of the Russian Word. A last collection of poems appeared in 1817.”

    Durova is up there.


    • April 25, 2013 10:43 pm

      Ah, thanks again. I think I found the same information on Urusova as at the link in your first comment, and either I’m misreading it or it’s mistaken. That’s what I get for putting together this list without reputable print sources like the Dictionary of Russian Women Writers. I’m grateful for the corrections and additions.

  3. April 26, 2013 7:38 am

    I don’t own a copy of the Dictionary of Russian Women Writers (who can afford it?), but fortunately Amazon has Search Inside for it. Very handy!

    • April 26, 2013 2:09 pm

      It certainly is handy! Inspired by your earlier comments and posts I spent part of last night flipping through the Amazon Search Inside and the Google Books search / snippet view. I now see that Google claims to sell it as an e-book for $197.56…?! If I were whoever controls the rights, I’d like my chances of selling 100 e-books at $2 apiece better than selling 1 for $200.

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