History's Women: Miscellaneous Articles: Harriet L. Martineau, English AuthoressHarriet L. Martineau
English Authoress
1802 – 1876 A.D.

Her ancestors were French and moved to England upon the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Her education was thorough as the times afforded for women. Hers was a strong character. While she had earnestness, courage, and sincerity, she was self-willed, self-opinionated, and self-conscious. She says of herself in her autobiography, that she was possessed of a temper “downright devilish” and had a “capacity for jealousy which was something frightful,” at the age of four years.

She was the sixth child in a household of eight. It was a busy, hard-working family. She was early afflicted with deafness, which increased with years and her mind was much shut in.

She found it necessary to do something which could not be performed apart from others, and turned to study, which became a passion. Her father lost his property and all were obliged to do something, not merely for an occupation but for a livelihood.

1825-26 was a time of speculations, collapses, and crashes. The bitter experiences of her family influenced her literary career. In this school of experience she learned to write on the burning questions of State, and especially political economy. Her experiences and vehement disposition made these works mightily trenchant.

Eminent statesmen asked her to write on almost every conceivable topic connected with legislation. Lord Brougham offered to collect evidence for her series on the Poor Laws and place it at her disposal. The Series was successful beyond her dreams. She tells her experience of a visit into the outer air for the first thorough holiday taken for nearly three years.

So she came to the United States on her completion of her English Political Tales. Everywhere she was graciously received, though her strong anti-slavery utterances detracted from her popularity in some places. But this is to her honor.

She was impatient and cared only to speak the truth with the greatest possible force.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.