Women in Horror

Women in Horror Month rightfully draws attention to the many talented women writing today–Nadia Bulkin, Gwendolyn Kiste, Kathe Koja, Lisa Tuttle, and so many, many more. But it also always brings me back to a pair of sisters who compiled some of the most formative women’s horror I ever read.

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Women in HorrorA true sister act, Seon Manley and Gogo Lewis were devoted to creating wonderful anthologies of supernatural fiction for young readers. While their output spanned the later 1960s through 1980, it was during the 1970s that they focused on the female, filling volumes with two century’s worth of suspense, fantasy, gothic, and ghostly fiction written by women.

Their anthologies were certainly my first exposure to classics like Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Birds”. And there were so many others, by authors both expected and quite a surprise.

Some of the ones I still remember with a chill follow.

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Ladies of Horror: Two Centuries of Supernatural Stories by the Gentle Sex (1971)

  • Man-Size in Marble by E. Nesbit
  • Hand in Glove by Elizabeth Bowen
  • The Last Séance by Agatha Christie

Mistresses of Mystery: Two Centuries of Suspense Stories by the Gentle Sex (1973)

  • The Head by E. Nesbit
  • Good-bye, Miss Lizzie Borden by Lillian de la Torre
  • The Willow Tree by Jane Rice

Ladies of the Gothics (1975) 

  • The Locked Room Upstairs by Celia Fremlin
  • The Housekeeper’s Story (excerpt from Wuthering Heights) by Emily Brontë
  • The Sailor Boy’s Tale by by Isak Dinesen

Ladies of Fantasy: Two Centuries of Sinister Stories by the Gentle Sex (1975)

  • Searching for Summer by Joan Aiken
  • The Unwanted by Mary Elizabeth Counselman
  • The Ensouled Violin by Madame Blavatsky
  • Doorway Into Time by C. L. Moore

Women in HorrorSisters of Sorcery (1976)

  • Through the Needle’s Eye by Andre Norton
  • The Horned Women by Lady Wilde
  • No Witchcraft for Sale by Doris Lessing

Women of the Weird: Eerie Stories by the Gentle Sex (1976)

  • One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts by Shirley Jackson
  • John Charrington’s Wedding by E. Nesbit
  • The Yellow Dwarf by Comtesse d’Aulnoy 

Ghostly Gentlewomen: Two Centuries of Spectral Stories By the Gentle Sex (1977)

  • Mr. Edward by Norah Lofts
  • Mommy by Mary Elizabeth Counselman
  • A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf
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While Seon Manley and Gogo Lewis are gone and their anthologies out of print, I think in their time they did an excellent job of showing the wide swath women cut through the speculative genres. The field has of course changed, growing more daring and more diverse. And Women in Horror Month has room for all of us, from the literary to the gonzo, from the earliest to the cutting edge.

Keep reading.