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Book Review: ‘Weird Women’ is a Must-Own for Fans of Classic Horror

by Waylon Jordan
Weird Women

Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers: 1852-1923, a brand new anthology of chilling supernatural tales, is out on August 4, 2020 from editors Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger. It is an absolute must-own for those interested in the women who helped shape the horror genre.

The collection features just over 20 tales of the strange and unusual, some from authors whose names you’ve no doubt heard, and others who have all but fallen to obscurity save for their inclusion in anthologies and collections from time to time.

Sadly, many times tales like these are collected, the roster is almost entirely made up of male authors with the inclusion of one or two entries by women who were writing during the same time period. Thankfully, Klinger and Morton decided it was time to let these talented women have their say.

Weird Women begins with Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story. Published in 1852, the story is told by an elderly nanny relating to a group of children a chilling tale involving their grandmother when she was just a babe. It’s the perfect tale to set the tone for what you’ll find in the remainder of the collection. She is also a prime example of why the work of so many women writers of the time were dismissed.

She had all but fallen into obscurity already when Lord David Cecil–a historian and scholar–wrote of that she was “all woman” and that she made “creditable effort to overcome her natural deficiencies but all in vain.” Sadly, these sort of comments colored criticism of her work for almost two decades until writers in the 50s and 60s began to re-read Gaskell and came to the conclusion that her views were a natural predecessor to the feminist movement which explained why so many stuffy male critics of the early 20th century had chosen to dismiss her work.

Then there are those authors like Louisa May Alcott whose names you most certainly know, but you might not have known they dipped their toes in the supernatural/horror pool from time to time. Little Women is undeniably her best known work, but Lost in a Pyramid; or, The Mummy’s Curse from 1869 places Alcott on the literary map as one of the first women to write a fully fleshed out “Mummy’s Curse” narrative.

I am also fond of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Giant Wistaria. Just about anyone who has taken a freshmen level Intro to Lit course in college is familiar with the author’s The Yellow Wall-Paper, but few may have read this particular tale, a ghost story that deals with some of the same themes as the better known work.

What I love most about this collection–and other collections like it–is when I am introduced to works and authors I have not read before.

Take for instance The Were-Wolf written by Clemence Housman. Housman was an author and illustrator. She also happens to be the sister of the poet A.E. Housman. This particular tale encapsulates many of the ideas of those who chafed against gender constraints of the time, wrapping them in a chilling, yet undeniably beautiful story about a female werewolf.

Weird Women ultimately works because of the stories and authors Klinger and Morton chose. They present a cross-section of the women who published during the time period, focusing on tales that are not only well-written but are also genuinely creepy. They also provide a brief bio for each author so that you can learn more about the incredible women in this collection.

The book is available to order on Amazon by CLICKING HERE. I cannot recommend it enough if you are a fan of tales of the strange and unusual.

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