Harriet Martineau by
(1834 or before)
|Died||27 June 1876 (aged 74)|
|Notable works||Illustrations of Political Economy (1834)|
Society in America (1837)
The Hour and the Man (1839)
Martineau wrote many books and a multitude of essays from a sociological, holistic, religious, domestic, and perhaps most controversially, feminine perspective; she also translated various works by
Martineau said of her own approach to writing: "when one studies a society, one must focus on all its aspects, including key political, religious, and social institutions". She believed a thorough societal analysis was necessary to understand women's status under men.[
The sixth of eight children, Harriet Martineau was born in
Her ideas on domesticity and the "natural faculty for housewifery", as described in her book Household Education (1848), stemmed from her lack of nurture growing up. Although their relationship was better in adulthood, Harriet saw her mother as the antithesis of the warm and nurturing qualities which she knew to be necessary for girls at an early age. Her mother urged all her children to be well read, but at the same time opposed female pedantics "with a sharp eye for feminine propriety and good manners. Her daughters could never be seen in public with a pen in their hand." Her mother strictly enforced proper feminine behaviour, pushing her daughter to "hold a sewing needle" as well as the (hidden) pen.
Martineau began losing her senses of taste and smell at a young age, becoming increasingly
In 1829, the family's textile business failed. Martineau, then 27 years old, stepped out of the traditional roles of feminine propriety to earn a living for her family. Along with her needlework, she began selling her articles to the Monthly Repository, earning accolades, including three essay prizes from the
In Martineau's Autobiography, she reflects on her success as a writer and her father's business failure, which she describes as "one of the best things that ever happened to us". She described how she could then "truly live instead of vegetate". Her reflection emphasizes her experience with financial responsibility in her life while she writes "[her] fusion of literary and economic narratives".
Her first commissioned book,
Illustrations of Political Economy, was a fictional tutorial intended to help the general public understand the ideas of
The subsequent works offered fictional tutorials on a range of political economists such as