History's HEROES? 1802 - 1876

Harriet Martineau

Should Harriet Martineau be considered a hero?


Arguments for
  • Harriet Martineau was not afraid to express her opinions.
    Even when she knew that some people would be very upset, Harriet voiced her opposition to slavery in her American tour.
  • She did not let her disability get in the way of her campaigning.
    Although she was increasingly deaf since being a girl, she did not stop taking part in a variety of campaigns for what she saw as justice.
  • She carried on working despite ill health and being in pain.
    Even though she was sometimes confined to bed with pain and ill health, she continued writing campaigning leaflets for her causes.
  • She chose to earn a living, at a time when women were supposed to be dependant on others.
    Harriet Martineau went about earning her own living and being independent, even though it would have been socially 'correct' for her to be dependant upon her siblings if she had no husband, and she also had her hearing disability.
Arguments against
  • Harriet Martineau did not have real empathy for the poorest people.
    She saw their plight as a problem to be solved rather than from a humanitarian point of view and she supported the Poor Laws and the setting up of Workhouses.
  • She could be very self-willed and stubborn.
    She went ahead with her treatments of 'mesmerism' and advocated it for others, even though it caused a rift with her closest family.

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