For a long time I couldn’t figure out why the books with “Whoever’s” Wife or Daughter as the title rubbed me the wrong way. I knew that I didn’t like them, but I didn’t know why. The realization was gradual, but I feel like I now fully understand my issue with these books.
The problem is the possession. The “This-Man’s” Wife or Daughter. Like she does not exist without that relationship. She is defined by what some male relation does for a living. She is not her own person.
Many of these books have a good premise. Many of them feature a wife or daughter who is the real hero of the story. I can understand why an author or publisher might chose that title. Maybe she is breaking free of His shadow or secretly responsible for all of His accomplishments. However, there are other, better options. She Has a Name!
While there are legions of books with “So-And-So’s” Wife or Daughter as the title, the opposite is not true. I have been hard pressed to find books with “Some-Lady’s” Husband or Son as the title. I guess men aren’t usually defined by their women, weird.
Here are the books with the best opportunity to be re-christened. They feature strong female lead characters who are their own people, with their own lives and accomplishments. I have included my corrected title suggestions. Please comment below with your own ideas!
Alchemist’s Daughter by Katherine McMahon
During the English Age of Reason, a woman cloistered since birth learns that knowledge is no substitute for experience.
Raised by her father in near isolation in the English countryside, Emilie Selden is trained as a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. In the spring of 1725, father and daughter embark upon their most daring alchemical experiment to date attempting to breathe life into dead matter. But when Emilie against her father's wishes experiences the passion of first love, she is banished to London, where she soon discovers she knows nothing about human nature or her own family's complicated past. So begins her shocking journey to enlightenment.
Corrected Title: The Alchemist’s Banishment
Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
When Anne Morrow, a shy college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family, she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong. Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. In the years that follow, Anne becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States. But despite this and other major achievements, she is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
Corrected Title: The Glider Pilot
Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
When Emily Warren Roebling marries Captain Washington 'Wash' Roebling-the handsome, charming soldier of her dreams, and her brother's dear friend and aide during the Civil War-a lifetime of family fun and happiness seems within her grasp. But then Wash accepts the position as Chief Engineer on his father's magnum opus, the Brooklyn Bridge, and it changes both of their lives forever. In Brooklyn, the happy home they'd dreamed of warps around the bridge. Incapacitated from working in the high-pressure tanks at the bridge's foundations, Wash convinces Emily to be his messenger to the site. Little by little, Emily finds herself taking over the project-with no formal training or education in math and science. Emily throws herself into building the bridge but faces suspicion and disparagement at every turn as she supervises dangerous construction sites and argues for the safety of the bridge amongst Manhattan's male elite. The Engineer's Wife delivers an emotional portrait of a woman transformed by a project of unfathomable scale, and of a husband and wife determined to build something that lasts--even at the risk of losing each other.
Corrected Title: Emily’s Bridge
Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son—except that the town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years’ War has finally ended, and there hasn’t been a witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.
Jakob Kuisl is charged with extracting a confession from her and torturing her until he gets one. Convinced she is innocent, he, Magdalena, and her would-be suitor race against the clock to find the true killer. Approaching Walpurgisnacht, when witches are believed to dance in the forest and mate with the devil, another tattooed orphan is found dead and the town becomes frenzied. More than one person has spotted what looks like the devil—a man with a hand made only of bones. The hangman, his daughter, and the doctor’s son face a terrifying and very real enemy.
Corrected Title: Magdalena in the Time of Witches
Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza's family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.
Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.
From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.
Corrected Title: The Seamstress
Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.
Corrected Title: Antonina’s Zoo
While I was writing this post, it made me realize how pissed I would be if someone wrote a book about me and gave it one of these titles. FYI, it would be “The Contractor’s Wife”, gag. So, just in case, my biography is to be called “Bossy Librarian” (obviously), because I am Bossy and a Librarian. What is your biography title? Comment below: