Baileys- the sponsor for the Women’s Prize for Fiction- has had to apologise for a mistake in the Reclaim Her Name collection.
The incorrect illustration of a black abolitionist was used on the cover of one particular book in the series meant to re-empower the women who were forced to use male pseudonyms to get a chance in the publishing world.
The project has since received many mixed reactions when it launched this month.
The Reclaim Her Name campaign includes 25 titles republished as free ebooks celebrating 25 years of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. From thousands of potential authors, 25 titles were chosen including authors like Mary Ann Evans, also known as George Eliot, and Fatemeh Farahani, whose 19th-century poetry was published as Shahein Farahani.
Also included is Frances Rollin Whipper’s The Life of Martin R Delany. Whipper was the first African American to publish a biography in 1868, but did it under the pseudonym Frank A Rollin. An issue has arisen as Baileys’ cover for the republished title showed the recognisable silhouette of abolitionist Frederick Douglass not Delany, a journalist and also an abolitionist.
Douglass (left) and Delany (right)
A Bailey’s spokesperson stated on their website:
“We are very sorry … We should also have spotted this in our reviews. We have since withdrawn and replaced the front cover and are conducting a full investigation to understand exactly how this happened. We will also be putting further measures in place to ensure it can never happen again.”
Mary Chapman, professor of English at the University of British Columbia, noted how the initiative could have been handled with more care: “They could have done a better job. They had great goals. It is beautiful – you’d be thrilled to have those books on your shelf. But the minute you look at the thinking behind it, you just groan.”