Remarkable Women Writers and Artists Whose Work Was Stolen by Men

Read on to learn about famous male authors and artists whose work was actually plagiarized from a woman, and give credit where credit is due.

Author's Corner Female Voices
Book jackets for The Outline of History by H.G. Wells, Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht and The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald are pictured side-by-side on a glass background.

Unfortunately, a quick look into history would reveal that a woman made a revolutionary discovery or created an innovative work of art or literature instead of the man typically credited for it. For too long, it was too easy for men to be able to push over a woman, steal her words, mind, or creations, and be rewarded for it. In this article, we will glimpse at the lives and histories of the women whose work was stolen from a man and return to them the credit they deserve.

Zelda Fitzgerald

Characteristically enigmatic, Zelda Fitzgerald had her works plagiarized by her own husband, American literary great F. Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda publicly called out her husband in The New York Tribune when, upon reading his novel The Beautiful and Damned, she realized that parts of the book were ripped from her diary. Zelda began receiving as much public attention as her husband, causing a rift in their relationship. It is suggested that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s continuous ill treatment and hatred towards his wife was the catalyst that caused her mental and physical health to deteriorate drastically throughout the years.

Book jacket for The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. An illustration of a woman in a yellow dress and red shawl with characteristic 1920s hair and makeup stands next to a man in a black and white tux. She overlooks a crowd of people near an eccentric party on a lake. Both of them are standing underneath a tree with hanging lanterns.

Zelda held onto her literary flair while in the hospital and delivered the manuscript for Save Me the Waltz to her husband’s editor. Her husband detested this, as he had planned to use the same autobiographical information for his book, Tender Is the Night. He wrote angry letters and forced Zelda to remove sections of material from her book so that he may use them for himself. After Save Me the Waltz was released, Scott wrote his own scathing review, impeding the success of Zelda’s only published novel.

Book jacket for Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald. An illustration of a woman in the early 1900s wears a long, tight silver dress with a red ruffled train. The dress has a sweetheart neckline and on strap, and over her arms is a floor length shawl with big red roses on either side. She poses with on hand on her hip and another holding a black lace fan. On her head is an elaborate black hat with red roses at the base. She has large, white earrings. Above her right shoulder is a smaller portrait of her in the same pose but facing away.

Margaret Keane

Artist Margaret Keane, known for her painted portraits of people with huge eyes, also had the credit of her work stolen by her husband. Walter Keane aided his wife in selling her paintings but secretly claimed them as his original work. Finally, in the 1970s, Margaret revealed that she was the original artist of the big-eyes paintings. Her husband tried to paint her as a liar, but Margaret sued for defamation and won. By painting in front of the jurors in court, Margaret was supposed to be compensated $4 million. However, Walter had spent all the money he earned on her paintings and could not provide the award to her.

Margarete Steffin

Renowned playwright Bertolt Brecht manipulated Margarete Stefffin to author eight of his works. Bertolt Brecht is known for transforming theater with his unorthodox productions, yet he owes his career to a slew of silenced women. Brecht seduced and promised many women like Margarete Steffin that he would marry them in exchange for a play he could claim as his own. Steffin’s handwriting penned the found manuscripts of Mother Courage and Her Children, The Good Person of Szechwan, and Life of Galileo and built the foundations of The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Moreover, when Steffin died of tuberculosis, Bertolt Brecht fought and won Steffin’s inheritance from her family.

Book jacket for Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht. A man with buzzed hair and a cigar in his mouth is set behind the title. It is only him from he shoulders up and in a light red filter.

Florence Deeks

Florence Deeks, Canadian writer and teacher, stands behind the works of the famous H.G. Wells. The Outline of History by H.G. Wells lifted unacknowledged information from Deek’s Web of the World’s Romance. Both novels’ exact inaccuracies in historical details serve as evidence of plagiarism by H.G. Wells from Florence Deeks. Deeks unsuccessfully sued Wells for copyright infringement, publicly shamed and embarrassed by the judge in the process.

Book jacket for The Outline of History by H.G. Wells. A textured ombre is fills the cover, starting from the top as green, then yellow, then orange towards the bottom.

We may still find ourselves attributing the successes of the men mentioned above to their own semblances of talent. Now, knowing about the women who were silenced during their lifetime so that a man could further this career and gain, it is our job to celebrate them and their accomplishments in the present day and give them the recognition they deserve. We must uplift women, past and present, to transform the future into one where equal successes are rightly allotted to women.

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