For many writers and book lovers, Charlotte Bronte is an icon and a giant. Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette and The Professor have been read, re-read, discussed, argued about and made into film, television and stage productions.
Claire Harman’s new biography, Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, takes the reader into the heart, the mind and the psyche of her subject. Charlotte Bronte, like her most famous heroine, Jane Eyre had neither wealth, conventional beauty or status. The daughter of a parson who might have been called eccentric in his own time, Charlotte Bronte lived most of her life in isolated, obscure, Haworth, a small town in Yorkshire. Outside of her family and close friends, few would have guessed that underneath the mask of propriety lurked a woman who felt deeply, loved deeply and held beliefs that contradicted what many Victorians believed to be right and true.
This is not the first biography of Charlotte Bronte that I own. While the facts remain the same, what made this book different is that the world is seen through Charlotte’s eyes. A vibrant, intelligent and thoroughly capable woman stuck in an era when women were supposed to be meek, compliant and hide any sense of intelligence, this book is a reminder of now just how smart and capable Charlotte Bronte truly was.
I absolutely recommend it.
Today is International Women’s Day.
When I think about how far we have come from where were only two generations ago is amazing.
My grandmother’s generation, like their mothers and grandmothers before them, were solely expected to marry and raise a family. If they were educated, their education was minimal and unimportant compared to their brothers. A career was out of the question.
Thankfully, things have changed. But that change did not come easily. My generation has a lot to be grateful for. Our mother’s and grandmothers have paved the way for us. Without their tireless work, we would be stuck in the same life cycle as our ancestors.
But we have a long way to go. There are still goals that have yet to be reached.
- Equal pay for equal work
- Stories of women being raped, both here at home and abroad continue to dominate the news.
- Teaching our daughters respect for themselves, teaching our sons to respect the women in their lives
- Ensuring that all women are guaranteed educational and career opportunities
- Providing women, with and without children, a reasonable living wage to care for themselves and their loved ones
The list goes on and on. Our foremothers started on this path generations ago, it’s up to us to continue on this path.
I’m going to end this post with a quote from one of my favorite writers and a true hero in every sense of the word.
“If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Shirley