Anonymity: A Historical Perspective

The Federalist Papers were written to convince the states to ratify the Constitution. These papers have been labeled one of the most important documents in US history, because of the insight it gave into the Constitution. It was written by Hamilton and Madison, but they chose to publish it anonymously.

"The Federalist Papers were written and published to urge New Yorkers to ratify the proposed United States Constitution, which was drafted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. In lobbying for adoption of the Constitution over the existing Articles of Confederation, the essays explain particular provisions of the Constitution in detail. For this reason, and because Hamilton and Madison were each members of the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers are often used today to help interpret the intentions of those drafting the Constitution"

Other writers in this time period also wrote anonymous or traceable pamphlets. Some of Thomas Paine's pamphlets were signed with pseudonyms. Some of the greatest patriots published ideas anonymously with the hope of bettering the early government of the United States.

"New Jersey governor, William Livingston, was at work writing anonymous articles that defended the right to publish anonymously as part of the freedom of the press. Under the pseudonym -Scipio,- Livingston wrote several articles attacking the Legislature's failure to lower taxes, and he accused a state officer of stealing or losing state funds during the British invasion of New Jersey. Responding to the allegations, the officer called upon Scipio -to avow your publication, give up your real name. Livingston replied with a four-part series defending -the Liberty of the Press.- Although Livingston at first defended anonymity because it encouraged authors to discuss politics without fear of reprisal, he ultimately invoked the liberty of the press as the guardian for anonymous political writing."
These anonymous letters of Livingston were found at 107-109; Scipio, Letter to the Printer, Feb. 24, 1784, The New-Jersey Gazette and the officer, S. Tucker's response in, To Scipio, Mar. 2, 1784, The New-Jersey Gazette. (McIntyre v. Ohio Elections)

We also see examples of authors publishing under pseudonyms to avoid discrimination. Marion Zimmer Bradley writes about discrimination against women fiction writers. She explains that women writers had to use pen names:

"most of you may be too young to remember how sexually segregated any kind of fiction used to be. Some books or magazines were for men, some for women, and that was that. In the old days, people in general believed only men could write, and, if women could, it could only be a romance. This infuriates me. Nowadays women write everything -- Bertha M. Bower, the famous Western writer, had to sign her stuff B.M. Bower -- but those days, fortunately, are gone forever." (Bradley)

We see that writers in China were afraid to speak out against the government for fear of ruining the honor of their family name. So they did so under pseudonyms.

"To dissent openly in China is a huge undertaking, often involving exile and the disgrace of one's family," said Buchan. Many Chinese believers "want to tell the truth, but they want to stay too. So its truth without attribution. Take it or leave it. They didn't make the rules." (Mattingly)

Persian Gulf women are forced to write under pseudonyms because they are "trapped by tradition and afraid of the social consequences. Many women writers in Persian Gulf Arab states are using pen names to air their views to the general public."

----> [definition]