(Roughly) Daily

“There is filth on the floor, and it must be scraped up with the muck-rake”*…

 

Harriet_Martineau_by_Richard_Evans

Harriet Martineau c1834, by Richard Evans. (National Portrait Gallery, London)

 

Harriet Martineau was a social reformer, novelist, and children’s author, the author of over over 50 books.  (Early in her career, she was outselling Dickens.)  An abolitionist, she was also a feminist and sociologist– before those terms had been invented.  And she was one of the first women journalists, who published nearly 2,000 articles and columns in the leading newspapers and magazines of her day.  Throughout a career devoted to “understanding how society works,” she strove to give the unheard– women, the poor– a voice… even as, for most of her life, Harriet was herself deaf.

Martineau had broken the mould by making complex ideas accessible to a wider readership via entertaining stories that connected grand theories with personal circumstances. While her delight in creating characters and human narratives gradually waned in favour of more direct campaigning for her favourite causes, she never lost her preference for example over theory, or (until her health gave out in 1855) for visiting places in person, so that she could see things for herself. What makes her career so remarkable was the number of times she made a fresh start on a new topic by mastering it for herself, from whatever information she could find to hand, and constantly updating her expertise so that her interventions might offer some practical support. Inevitably, some of these fields dated faster than others, but after a century of critical neglect, Martineau is now being widely reclaimed as a forthright thinker with a distinctive voice…

A campaigning journalist and an early feminist, Harriet Martineau humanized economic theory through Dickensian storytelling: “Mistress of All Trades.”

* Theodore Roosevelt

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As we celebrate curiosity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which had effectively given women the right to vote, that 50,000 women in New York City (and thousands more around the country and the world) marched down 5th Avenue to Bryant Park in protest of the lack of progress in securing equal rights for women.  Organized by Betty Friedan and sponsored by NOW, it was known as the Women’s Strike for Equality.

220px-1970s_women's_strike_poster_(cropped) source

 

Written by LW

August 26, 2019 at 1:01 am

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