It’s that time of year again. Dark nights, pumpkins-a-plenty, the excitement of firework displays bubbling away, with other winter celebrations just around the corner. As the year goes on, time is often marked by specific events, such as Easter, Diwali and Christmas – there are many, as you will know. But we also all have birthdays, and these are usually recognised, perhaps with a cake, maybe some balloons, gifts, other treats. What about writers, though? Do we ever spend time thinking about who was born when? Probably, if we are honest, no, we don’t. So here goes – let’s celebrate two famous women who were born in November, albeit a long time ago. First up… George Eliot:
Many people think that George Eliot was a man – after all, we probably associate the name George with men, not women. However, this George was female – and even though her birth name was Mary Ann Evans, she chose the pen name George Eliot, which is how we think of her to this day.
Eliot was born on November 22 in 1819 and wrote well-known novels such as Silas Marner (1861) and Middlemarch (1871-72) – the latter has been described as being ‘the greatest novel in the English language’ by more than one modern-day writer. What an accolade!
So, why did Eliot change her pen name from the more feminine Mary Ann Evans? Well, this was largely to do with the fact that men were, at the time, taken more seriously as writers (I know – hard to think of this today, in 2022). Also, she lived as an unmarried woman with a married man, and this would have been extremely controversial. She was, then, protecting herself, which makes sense.
If you fancy a hefty read for the forthcoming long winter nights, maybe you should give Middlemarch a go – it’s just shy of 900 pages! It centres on the life of a provincial, fictional town, very much like where George Eliot grew up, in the Midlands, close to Coventry.
So, what are you waiting for? Go and grab a copy and get reading!
Alcott lived at a similar time to Eliot, being born 13 years later on November 29, 1832, in Pennsylvania, USA, though she grew up on America’s East Coast, in Boston. The name may well be very familiar – possibly because Alcott wrote Little Women, a timeless classic set in Massachusetts, loosely based on the writer’s own life with her sisters.
Little Women has been performed on the stage and screen – you may well have seen the 2019 film version with Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson. To this day, it remains a hugely popular story, with many readers saying that it is a realistic representation of people’s lives. This identification is probably why it continues to be so popular. Alcott never married and was a feminist.
Even though Little Women is what made Alcott famous, you may not know that it was part of a trilogy – it is followed by Little Men, building on characters in the first book, and then by Jo’s Boys. So, if you have read the first in the series and enjoyed it, why not delve in to the next two?
There you have it – two famous literary women with November birthdays. See if you can find out who else shares this birthday month with them.