Things you may not know about Harriet Martineau
Harriet Martineau in brief
Harriet Martineau was a social reformer, novelist and children's author, writing over 50 books. She was an abolitionist, feminist and sociologist (before the terms had been invented). More importantly she was one of the first women journalists and had published, nearly 2,000 articles and columns for newspapers. She strove to give women a voice. For most of her life Harriet was also deaf.
She was forced to take up writing as a career in order to earn a living. However, her clear and simple style and her ability to explain complicated issues in ways which ordinary people could understand, gave her a wide readership - and made her a wealthy woman.
She developed advanced ideas for her time, championing the rights of women, arguing for less discipline and more rationality in education, arguing against religious belief and slavery. She also pioneered ways of analysing society which were taken up by modern sociologists. These involved looking at society as a whole and seeing all its aspects in relation to the big picture. Her influence in her own time was extensive, but her work has tended not to be acknowledged since.
She presented many of her ideas in the form of stories. This was very well received by the Victorians (who had no radio or TV to distract them) and this approach helped popularise her ideas. She thus helped to introduce new ways of thinking to many people, and played an important part in bringing about the modern world.
Statue of Harriet Martineau
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