Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney are the authors of A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf, with a foreword by Margaret Atwood. (The title of the American edition is A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf.)
The idea for A Secret Sisterhood grew out of this blog, Something Rhymed, set up by Emma and Emily in 2014. The name was inspired by the title of a poem by Jackie Kay, in which she sings the praises of her friend, fellow writer Ali Smith. It seemed an apt choice for a blog begun with the aim of celebrating female literary friendships of the past and present.
Emma and Emily had already been friends for a decade-and-a-half by the time they set up Something Rhymed. As aspiring authors themselves, they had long grown used to relying on each other’s support, celebrating writerly successes together and providing a shoulder to cry on when the going got tough.
This was what started them wondering about the collaborations between their literary forebears.
Several male writing friendships have become the stuff of legend: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, for instance, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
But did Jane Austen have a fellow writer with whom she shared her ideas? What about Mary Shelley, Emily Dickinson or Virginia Woolf?
Between 2014 and 2020, Emily and Emma shared regular posts on this blog with the aim of adding a celebratory note to today’s resurgent feminist conversation.
These published pieces included posts that focused on pairs of historical literary friends, personal reflections inspired by aspects of these writers’ friendships, guest posts written by pairs of modern-day writers, and posts that explored wider ideas about aspects of female friendship or the publishing landscape as experienced by women through the ages.
Other writer-friends whose work has featured on Something Rhymed include: Jill Dawson and Kathryn Heyman, Yvette Edwards and Irenosen Okojie, and Julia Pascal writing of her friendship with Martha Gellhorn. Past interviewees include: the late Diana Athill about her friendship with Jean Rhys, Sheila Hancock and Kate Moss, Madeline Miller talking about her friendship with Ann Patchett, and Soniah Kamal and Shikha Malaviya.
You can find all of these guest posts and interviews by clicking on the Guest Posts tab and scrolling through the list of featured writer pairs.
Pieces that focus on a historical writer pair, and associated posts, can be found by clicking on the Featured Authors tab and scrolling through that list.
Emma and Emily hope you enjoy exploring this web of literary connections with them, and celebrating the rich history of female literary friendship.