Rhoda Broughton (1840-1920) was a Welsh writer who was known for the sensationalist aspect of her work. Her uncle, the famed author J. Sheridan le Fanu, assisted her in finding her first publisher; later on, Rhoda mentored other women, include Mary Chomondelay.
This was a hard story to reject! We really loved the use of mesmerism (something that was very popular in the nineteenth century), and some of the strange, almost surreal scenes. There’s nothing else like it in Weird Women, but sadly we excluded it mainly due to length.
Like many of the early female authors, Gertrude Atherton was a suffragist, a prolific writer whose works fall into a variety of genres and forms, and she lived long enough to see a silent film made from one of her novels (Black Oxen). Like her contemporary Emma Frances Dawson, she spent most of her life in Northern California, where she had a tempestuous friendship with Ambrose Bierce.
As you’ll see from our introduction, “The Bell in the Fog” made it far enough along in the editing process that we had already written the bio for the beginning of it, and we were sorry to lose this one.
Catherine Crowe was influential in the development of two movements in the mid-nineteenth century: spiritualism, and the ghost story. Although she produced a number of acclaimed non-supernatural works, she found her greatest success with translating Justinus Kerner’s German biography The Seeress of Prevorst (1845), about a young mystic named Friederike Hauffe; and 1848’s The Night-Side of Nature, a collection of ghost lore which sold 65,000 copies shortly after publication. The latter book was published the same year that the Fox sisters heard “spirit rappings” in their house in Hydesville, New York, and so started spiritualism. Later devotees often noted the importance of Crowe’s work to their religion.
Crowe’s “Round the Fire” first appeared in her 1859 collection Ghosts and Family Legends: A Volume for Christmas. We ended up not using it in Weird Women partly because it feels like a collection of existing ghost stories, and partly because we already had so many other ghost stories…but it retains enough power to chill to make it worthy of the attention of modern readers.
This suggestive ghost tale was first published in Blackwood’s in 1896, and has been reprinted many times since. Oliphant was a prolific Scottish writer whose works usually appeared under the byline “Mrs. Oliphant”, as was common at the time.
This classic tale wasn’t used in Weird Women mainly due to length (and to the fact that we already had a number of other ghost stories), but we still love it and are happy to share it here, with our annotations.
When our book Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense came out in early 2019 (to gratifying rave reviews!), we decided we’d had so much fun putting that together that we wanted to do another book. We talked over a few ideas (and may still work on those), but the one we both felt most passionate about was an anthology of fiction by early female horror writers.
Fortunately, our Ghost Stories publisher Pegasus was also on board with that idea, so we got to work by May of 2019. As much as we’d read to find the tales for Ghost Stories, we went even deeper for Weird Women. We started by reading critical studies, and then scoured bookstores, libraries, and the internet for some of the great women we’d read about in the critical studies. We also read old periodicals and anthologies, looking for female names. In one case (Regina Miriam Bloch), we even made an appointment at the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy in the University of Riverside’s library to view two story collections that have languished in undeserved obscurity (and we’re proud to say that our book includes the first reprinting of Bloch’s fiction in over a century).
We soon amassed a substantial list of stories and authors we loved – we started with fifty, which is sadly more than one book can hold. The process of narrowing that list down was excruciating! There were a few we very much wanted to include but we finally decided against, mainly because there were other stories we’d already voted in that employed similar themes or settings. We wanted readers to see how wide-ranging the work of these wonderful writers was.
We began writing the little introductions for each story and annotating them (to explain some of the obsolete terms or references for modern readers), and even then we had to finally reject a few stories we’d already worked on.
In the end we chose twenty-one stories…but we love the ones we couldn’t use so much that we still wanted to share them with everyone, so we’ll post those stories at this blog from time to time.
We think you’ll enjoy these astonishing, frightening, and beautifully-crafted works as much as we did.