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Stephen And Tabitha King Strike Back At Headlines That Just Say 'His Wife'

When someone's ideas and works are big enough to capture the world's attention, there's an unfortunate historical reality that holds that they're more likely to get due credit for their vision when they're a man.

One of many examples is astrophysicist Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

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She made a groundbreaking and literally Nobel Prize-worthy discovery of pulsars that help astronomers the world over map space.

However, she didn't receive the prize. Instead, it went to her male adviser, who didn't even believe her discovery was real at first.

Yet, even when a man does do some incredible work, it's not always the case that they did it alone.

And a recent backlash against headlines that ignore author Tabitha King's legacy suggest a new push to acknowledge the legacy of influential women.

After Stephen and Tabitha King made a $1.25 million donation to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, they noticed a particular trend in the coverage.

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The headlines tended to say that Stephen and "his wife" made the donation and they rarely mentioned her by name.

This carried the implication that Stephen spearheaded the donation, while Tabitha simply agreed to it.

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Yet, as Stephen wrote on Facebook, the opposite was actually true and the donation was originally her idea.

This is one of the reasons that he sought to remind the press that she has a name.

But this post, in which he said she was "rightly pissed" about this, actually served as an intro for her own response.

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By responding on her husband's official page, Tabitha could make sure that she was heard.

People couldn't pretend not to see it.

"Dear Editors (married to a wife or a husband):

"In recent media coverage of a gift that my husband (ironic usage) and I made to the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, we became Stephen King and his wife.

Wife is a relationship or status. It is not an identity."

She continued by saying that they might as well have called her "OfStephen. Or His Old Lady. Or His-Ball-And-Chain."

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"I have sons. You could have referred to me as Mother-of-Novelists. I have a daughter but wouldn’t it be just silly to refer to me as Mother-of-Clergy?"

"I’m seventy. I thought I would give you permission, if “OfTabitha” predeceases me, to title my obituary, Relick of Stephen King."

"In the meantime, you might consider the unconscious condescension in your style book, and give women their names."


After all, to not respect her name is to underrate her own significant part of the Kings' shared legacy.

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For one thing, she leaves a distinct impression as an author in her own right. While not all of her works are rooted in horror, those that fit in that genre are known to express a quiet brutality that Stephen doesn't often explore.

Plus, by Stephen's own admission, he likely would never have started his career without Tabitha.

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As he told The Guardian, he had actually thrown his idea for Carrie out and it only turned into the story it did because Tabitha rescued it from the trash and told him she wanted to know the rest of the story.

She also helped him write believable high school girls, as he wasn't confident that he could at the time.

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Which shows a lot of self-awareness on his part. A lot of authors don't take the time to learn from people who actually relate to the characters they write, whether they're a different gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and so on.

For those who already knew all of this when those headlines appeared, Tabitha's response was music to their ears.

Both Tabitha and Stephen had come much too far for one of them to just be defined as the other's spouse, although this led many commenters to jokingly call Stephen "Tabitha's husband."

Among those cheering Tabitha on was her son, Joe Hill.

Hill also knows a little something about escaping a more famous family member's shadow, as he chose his pen name as a way to ensure his success was based on his own merits and not his father's name.

He'd already published multiple books before his identity was revealed.

And by then he'd given readers plenty of reason to respect him as an individual, having ended up on The New York Times bestseller list before the connection to his dad was known.

So we should all remember to define people as themselves rather than by the person they are married or related to.