24 April, 2023
This collection is created to celebrate the journey of Andrea Gollbach and Uschi Neubauer, managing directors of Lillemors bookshop in Munich, who retire in June 2023. The book lists that they have put together over the years for Lillemors since 1975 will be presented to the Munich authorities who will create an archive, thus preserving an important history of the women’s movement.
Lillemors was founded on 3 November 1975 by six feminists – Susanne Aeckerle, Ute Geissler, Sabine Holm, Gerlinde Kowitzke, Mara Kraus und Monika Neuser – at Arcisstrasse 57 in Munich. Their role model was the Librairie des femmes in Paris, founded 1974. Rather than being a traditional Buchhandlung, Lillemors define themselves as a Buchladen, a term reminiscent of familiar places such as a milk shop or a stationery shop. As a name ‘Buchladen’ was not accepted by the authorities, so they chose Lillemors, which means little mothers in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.
Lillemors was initially also open to men, but from 1978 until it moved to Barerstrasse in 2000, only women were allowed in. This was because it was the only place other than the Munich Women’s Centre where women could be without men.
Women Writing Architecture has put together a collection of book lists from Lillemors that focuses on female authors who used pen names – often male – when they published their work. The act of freeing oneself from the conventional definition of a name, a word, does not mean abandoning oneself; it means taking the initiative to overcome preconceived notions defined by society in order to expand the limits of the possible.
For example. Charlotte Brontë sometimes used the gender-neutral pen name Currer Bell.
Having loved writing from an early age, the Brontë sisters actively sought out their role models and asked for feedback on their work. Ten years before the publication of Jane Eyre (1847), the 16-year-old Charlotte sent some of her poems to Robert Southey, Poet Laureate, for comment. Southey told her she had ‘the faculty of verse’, but added:
“Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it even as an accomplishment and a recreation.”
While revealing his prejudices against women writers, he was also honest about the difficulties faced by professional writers.
Ironically, the young Charlotte was delighted by this reply, writing:
“I must thank you for the kind and wise advice you have condescended to give me… I trust I shall never more feel ambitious to see my name in print.”
Southey’s words about the place of women in literature are sublimated by her own desire for her work to stand on its own merits, without prejudice to the identity and gender of the author. This extends to her storytelling, where she breaks away from the predominantly male heroes of her time and puts women in the driver’s seat.