Seymour is now dead, and Mills-who remarried, continued writing under her own byline, and, at 81, is working on a novel-continued to resent her lack of credit. She began talking and writing about her contributions after he died, and subsequent reporters confirmed the work she did. This month, when the Society for American Baseball Research chose to honor Seymour and his series with an award, she fumed and so, apparently, did female members of SABR. After a bit of a kerfluffle, she, too, was honored. ” ‘Everyone assumed that he had done all that work by himself-that’s what he wanted them to assume, but we were equal partners,’ ” Mills is quoted saying. “’He just couldn’t share credit. And I didn’t say anything at the time, because at the time, wives just didn’t do that.’ ”
More to the point, reading the piece, I also thought of recent instances where a wife contributes significantly to work published under her husband’s byline. A year or so again there was much discussion of the fact that writer Dan Baum acknowledged that his wife, Margaret Knox, does a great deal of editing and organizing on his bylined work.
about it, and
published a thoughtful post that received a number of comments including some suggesting that whatever consenting adult writers consent to is their business. Others found the arrangement troubling, given the history of women typing their husbands’ theses and not getting credit. More recently,
on a profile of Paul Krugman that shows his wife, the economist Robin Wells, has done a fair amount of editing of his work. Jezebel writes that “it’s hard not to see their relationship in the context of a larger pattern of famous male writers and their devoted, semi-invisible wives.”
Marriage is such a complex arrangement, involving competition, support, synergy, compromise, cheerleading, constructive criticism, unconstructive criticism, etc. How much help is OK? How much uncredited help is OK? If you’d credit a research assistant, shouldn’t you credit a spouse? How do we think about these things in the era of companionate marriage and wives with degrees and accomplishments? If the husband cheerfully acknowledges the help-as Seymour clearly did not, back then-is it OK? If the wife is OK with providing the help uncredited-as Mills, apparently, really wasn’t, even back then-is it OK? The Mills case is a useful reminder that what a person agrees to at the time sometimes rankles, later, under altered circumstances. But then, that’s true of many things in marriage. One wonders if spousal co-writing will ever factor into a divorce settlement and if so, how that will be untangled.
Then again, in this case technology, or maybe just technological glitches, can also mete out a peculiar justice: Looking for Seymour’s books on Amazon, I noted that Mills (who also wrote under the name Dorothy Z. Seymour) is credited as an author in the blurbs advertising the paperback versions of the baseball history (though her name is not on the cover, as far as I can tell). And in some cases, thanks to computer truncating or something, Dorothy Seymour is named in the blurb as the sole author of the book. So, at least in that way, she gets the last laugh.