History's HEROES? 1802 - 1876

Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau - Timeline

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1802 June 12th - Harriet Martineau is born at Gurney Court, Norwich. She is the sixth child of eight. Her father is a textile factory owner in Norwich. She is brought up in the Unitarian faith.
1811 Harriet's sister Ellen is born. Harriet adores the baby and takes a great interest in watching how she develops and grows up.
1813 Harriet and her older sister Rachel go to a day-school and are tutored by a Mr Perry for a period of two years. He is interesting and caring and inspires in the girls a love of learning.
1814 The first signs of her deafness are starting to emerge.
1818 At the age of 16, her poor health leads to a long visit to Bristol, where her aunt runs a school. This is a happy time for her.
1819 She returns to Norwich to live with her parents.
1821 She begins to write for the Unitarian Monthly Repository, a Unitarian periodical (anonymously at first).
1822 It is confirmed that she is partially deaf and, from now on, she needs to use a hearing trumpet.
1823 Harriet publishes her first work, a small devotional book entitled Devotional Exercises and Addresses, Prayers and Hymns.
1824 Her much loved brother Thomas (who had encouraged her to write) dies.
1826 Harriet's father dies, leaving his wife and daughters practically destitute. She takes up needlework but decides to earn her living by being a writer. She writes a couple of religious books.
Harriet Marineau becomes engaged to a fellow-student of her brother James, named John Hugh Worthington, but there are doubts and difficulties on all sides. Harriet is relieved when circumstances prevent their marrying: Worthington becomes seriously mentally ill and dies in 1827.
1830 The Unitarian Association awards Harriet three essay prizes, but her writing does not earn her much money and she has to supplement her income by doing needlework.
1831 The editor of the Unitarian magazine, Charles Fox, agrees to pay her a small salary for writing a series of books entitled 'Illustrations of Political Economy' - fictional tales which illustrate (in a dramatic, simple way) economics and the ideas of people like Adam Smith.
1832 Harriet welcomes the Reform Bill of 1832 as a step towards broadening suffrage and rationalising parliamentary representation.
Harriet moves to London and works on her 'Illustrations of Political Economy'. The series is a great success. She also produces works such as 'Poor Laws and Paupers Illustrated'. She becomes famous.
1833 Harriet's books become so successful that she is now financially secure, famous and living at the centre of London Society. She mixes with people such as Florence Nightingale and George Eliot.
1834 August 9th - Harriet Martineau boards a ship. She has decided to travel to the United States. She travels with a companion named Louisa Jeffrey.
September 19th - Harriet arrives in New York. She stays in America for two years.
1835 November - Harriet gives a statment against slavery at the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. This leads to abuse and threats, and sees her shunned by some acquaintances.
1836 October - Charles Darwin visits Harriet (who is a good friend of his brother Erasmus). He finds her agreeable, knowledgeable and opinionated. He describes her as 'ugly' but is impressed by her writing skills. She describes him as "simple, childlike, painstaking, effective".
1837 Harriet publishes her 'Theory and Practice of Society in America', one of the earliest sociological studies using analytical methods.
1838 She writes 'Retrospect of Western Travel', a travelogue; she also writes articles for journals such as the Westminster Review.
1839 Her best-known novel, 'Deerbrook', is published. This is a three-volume novel on rural middle-class life.
Harriet travels to the Continent to examine the Italian settings of some of Shakespeare's plays. She falls ill in Rome and is diagnosed with a tumour of the womb (probably a cyst).
She moves to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to live with her brother, a prominent doctor, and his wife, expecting to die.
1840 March - she moves to 57, Front Street, Tynemouth, just down the river from Newcastle. Here she writes 'The Hour and the Man', a book about the Haitian leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture.
1841 'The Playfellow', Harriet Martineau's collection of children’s stories, is published.
1844 Harriet undergoes a course of hypnotherapy (or mesmerism, as it was called then), which is apparently successful.
1845 Friction with her brother-in-law and his wife over her course of mesmerism leads her to leave Tynemouth and move to Ambleside in the Lake District, where she builds herself a house, 'The Knoll', near Ambleside.
She publishes three volumes of 'Forest and Game Law Tales'. She has also become friends with the poet Wordsworth and his wife.
1846 Harriet decides to tour the Near East (now the Middle East) with some friends. She travels to Egypt, Palestine and Syria.
1848 She publishes 'Eastern Life, Present and Past', a book based on her 1846 travels, which achieves notoriety through its theory that religion is evolving towards universal atheism (that is a belief that there is no god).
1849 She has 'History of the Peace' published. This is a history of England between 1816 and 1846, and is very well received.
1851 As well as works on education, in which she argues for freedom and rationality rather than strict discipline, Harriet Martineau publishes 'Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development', which is a complete rejection of religious belief.
1852 Harriet becomes a staff writer on the Daily News, writing as many as six leaders a week. She contributes to the Westminster Review.
Summer - Harriet visits Ireland as a traveling correspondent for the Daily News. She later produces reports on post-famine Ireland.
1853 Harriet publishes 'The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte' (freely translated and condensed by Harriet Martineau in two volumes). This clear explanation of Comte’s ideas popularises his work in the English-speaking world.
1855 Finding herself suffering from heart disease, Harriet begins writing her autobiography and obituary. In the event, her life, which she supposes to be coming to a close, lasts another 20 years.
1859 Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species' which was the beginning of the theory of evolution. Harriet Martineau embraces this new theory with interest.
1864 Government passes the first Contagious Diseases Act: others follow in 1866 and 1869. These force poor women suspected of being prostitutes to undergo medical examination and confinement in secure hospitals, to limit the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
1866 Harriet joins with other prominent women writers, such as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Emily Davis, to send a petition to Parliament demanding votes for women.
1869 She helps found the National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act. Horrified at such legislation, she has written many articles condemning the Contagious Diseases Acts.
1876 June 27th - Harriet Martineau dies of bronchitis at her home in Ambleside, 'The Knoll'. She is buried in the family grave in Key Holl Cemetery, Birmingham.
1883 A statue of Harriet Martineau, designed by Miss Whitney, is unveiled in the Old South Meeting-house, Boston. It was commissioned by her friend and admirer Maria Weston Chapman. It is later destroyed in a fire in 1914.
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