#Whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge Over 50s Lifestyle

How Charlotte Brontë used writing to #BreakTheBias before it was even a hashtag

March 18, 2022
Charlotte Bronte

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was #BreaktheBias and my contribution is to #BreaktheBias of Ageism and Stereotypes for Women Over 50. However, I think that women have always tried to break the gender bias as I discovered reading the Brontë sisters collection.

I’ve mentioned before that I belong to a wonderful, yet intimate Book Club group that meets Online. We decided at the outset to study the classics and to start with reading all of the works written by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. Last meeting, we finished the final book ‘Shirley’ by Charlotte Brontë. I had not heard of this book before, but it has become my favourite of all the Brontë works.

The Book Club took time, breaking each book into sections then meeting to discuss before moving onto the next section. This worked so well for me, as it gave me an insight not only to the story but to the authors.

We found ourselves actually ‘studying’ the books and diving down rabbit holes to find more information about the Bronte sisters to share with the group. We also ended each book with a baking session under the direction of our ‘resident baker in the group’ to bake something that related to the book. I’ll fill you in on that in a later post but it is a lovely way to finish the book discussion.

Last Sunday, I stumbled upon a book, ‘The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne‘, written by Catherine Reef and found it fascinating. I read it on a lazy Sunday and would recommend that you don’t read it until you’ve read the books, otherwise there are spoiler alerts throughout as Catherine discusses the parallels between the authors and the storylines of each book.

The book certainly adds another dimension to appreciating the books and getting to know Charlotte, Emily and Anne. We learn about their lives growing up in Haworth with their father a parson, their Mother who is thought to have died from cancer, two older sisters (Maria and Elizabeth, who both died young) and a brother. Bramwell. The influence of the Aunt to cared for them afer their mother’s death. How they became authors and based their books on personal life experiences.

Charlotte, is such an interesting character herself and as the title of my post suggests, was breaking the bias against women’s inequality before it even became a hashtag in 2022.

How?

  1. Charlotte wrote during Victorian times and highlighted the position of women in society. She and her sisters had to publish their books using psuedonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Females could not possibly write about the subjects and issues the three sisters were raising in their books. Women had been publishing novels, poetry, and nonfiction for a century, but whether women should write was controversial. Some Victorian women courageously produced books under their own names. Mary Ann Evans, the author of Middlemarch and other novels wrote under the pseudonym of George Eliot because she wanted readers to judge her as a writer rather than as a woman. To write freely about any subject, even if people thought it wrong for a female author. For not only did society tell women what they must not do, it also decided which subjects were off limits to them in books and in life. One of these subjects was passion. (Catherine Reef)
  2. In Jane Eyre, we see Charlotte’s ‘feminist manifesto’ when Jane says ‘women feel, just as men feel, they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men suffer.”
  3. In Shirley, we see an independent, young women so different to the society to which she belongs. However, when she marries we see a different side to Shirley as she seems to lose her lustre because she is now a ‘wife’.
  4. Charlotte highlights that for pretty women it must follow that they are ‘air headed’ and plain women are more intellectual. The male characters feel the need to ‘educate’ their women. I mean, what would they know?
  5. In the Tenant of Wildfell Hall, we see a woman who has dared to leave an unhappy relationship, taken her son and fled. Again, a strong woman who would not tolerate the behaviour of her husband and risked being the subject of gossip and malice.
  6. In Jane Eyre we written by we see the role of the governess as ‘awkward invisbility’ (Catherine Reef)
  7. Throughout the books we see evidence of the inequality of women during Victorian times.

In response to a reviewer, “I wish all reviewers believed ‘Currer Bell’ to be a man—they would be more just to him,” Charlotte wrote. “You will, I know, keep measuring me by some standard of what you deem becoming to my sex—where I am not what you consider graceful—you will condemn me.” As a novelist she refused to decide whether every sentence she wrote sounded “elegant and charming in femininity.” If society required this of her, then she would disappear from the world of books. “Out of obscurity I came,” she warned. “To obscurity I can easily return.” – Excerpt from The Brontë Sisters – The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

Another book recommended by my friend and WOYBS co-host Donna from Retirement Reflections is ‘A Girl Walks into a Book: What the Brontës Taught Me about Life, Love, and Women’s Work‘ by Miranda K Pennington. which again looks at the Bronte sisters in more depth. SPOILER ALERT as Miranda discusses the books in detail so my advice is don’t read it if you haven’t read the books.

These are my reasons that I think Charlotte was definitely trying to #breakthebias way back in the 1800s. Do you agree? Can you suggest other authors who have tried to break the gender bias?

Sharing what’s on their bookshelf this month

Take a moment to link through to see what my co-hosts and others have written……

Deb from Deb’s World
Jo from AndAnways
Donna from Retirement Reflections

Now over to you – what’s on your Bookshelf?

WHAT’S ON YOUR BOOKSHELF GUIDELINES:

What: What’s On Your Bookshelf (#whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge).
When: Third Thursday PM (Northern Hemisphere)/ Third Friday AM (Southern Hemisphere).
Why: Share a love of reading.
Where: Blog, Blog Comments, Instagram or other Social Media.
Who: This linkup is open to everyone.
How: You can share in the comments, with a blog post, or on other social media of your choice. Include the hashtag #Whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge so that we can find you and include your link in our posts.

Deb, Donna, Jo and I hope that you will join us each month and share what you’ve been reading! If you have any questions just ask us. You can also link to any, or all of our posts, with a pingback, that way we get to see your posts quicker!

Don’t forget to tell me about the book(s) you’re reading at the moment! Then click on the blue button below to see what others are reading.

See you next month!

Sue Loncaric

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27 Comments

  • Reply Debbie March 18, 2022 at 08:29

    Hi Sue, what a great way you’ve tied our Brontë readings into International Women’s Day theme, you are so creative and clever! Your synopsis is spot on for each of the books and how the characters were involved in #breakthebias before they even knew it was a’thing’. Well done on a fabulous post for our #whatsonyourbookshelfblogchallenge

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 18, 2022 at 16:33

      Thanks Deb, I was actually quite excited when the idea came to me after our recent book club meeting and IWD. Sometimes I surprise myself. xx

  • Reply Retirement Reflections March 18, 2022 at 08:35

    Hi, Sue – You’ve shared awesome information here. You’ve made me want to read the Brontës all over again.
    In answer to your question about early female authors who fought to break gender bias, I would include Virginia Woolf (huge contribution to female rights and focus on what women were not allowed to do), Mary Ann Evans (George Elliot). Like the Brontës, Mary Ann used a pseudonym because writing as a female was too much of an obstacle at that time. I would also include Jane Austen. I can’t wait to explore her books in more detail (I know, I know, why haven’t I explored them before??)
    I greatly look forward to what other readers suggest regarding gender-bias-breaking authors. Great post!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 18, 2022 at 16:34

      Hi Donna, I’ve not read Virginia Woolf (don’t shoot me) and yes, Mary Ann Evans had to write under the pseudonym George Elliot. I’m looking forward to starting Jane Austen and so pleased we have chosen to stay with the Classics. More rabbit holes to dive into .xx

  • Reply Jo March 18, 2022 at 08:44

    I love how you’ve tied this year’s IWD theme into the Brontes. They really were – Anne and Charlotte in particular – women ahead of their time with themes still relevant today. I’m glad you mentioned Middlemarch as well – I really must re-read that one…

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 18, 2022 at 16:35

      I’ve mentioned Middlemarch, Jo but I haven’t read it. I’m loving how we are putting the focus on the classics for book club. xx

  • Reply Jennifer Jones March 18, 2022 at 12:55

    Hi Sue, I agree with the previous comments that this is a great post linking books and IWD. Charlottle was definitely a woman before her time. You’ve reminded me of Middlemarch. It’s so long since I read it, I must revisit it.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 18, 2022 at 16:36

      Hi Jen, I had no idea what to write this month and then this idea popped into my head as we finished our book club discussion around the time of IWD. I’ve not read Middlemarch so that is one for my list. Have a lovely week. x

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee March 18, 2022 at 16:44

    Interesting to read the life story after you’ve read all the books so you can join the dots yourself too!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 22, 2022 at 08:25

      Hi Lydia, yes it certainly answered a few questions that I had reading their books.

  • Reply Toni Pike March 18, 2022 at 18:37

    hi Sue, What a fascinating book, thanks for sharing it with us. What an amazing family. Toni x

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 22, 2022 at 08:25

      Hi Toni, I enjoyed reading about the Bronte sisters after studying their work. It certainly gave me more depth of understanding.x

  • Reply rawsonjl March 18, 2022 at 21:46

    While I never read the Bronte sister’s work I do remember reading snippets of it and talking about the roles gender played in one of my lit classes in college. I think a lot of women often fought against those stereotypes in small ways behind the scenes.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 22, 2022 at 08:26

      Yes Joanne, there were many women who fought against stereotypes. I used Charlotte as an example because the book club had studied the Bronte Sisters’ works.

  • Reply Suzanne@PictureRetirement March 18, 2022 at 23:04

    Sue, this was a perfect contribution to IWD. Glad you are enjoying the classics with your reading group. I would have to add Ayn Rand, whose most famous works, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, portrayed women as equal to men in every way. Her female lead in Atlas Shrugged works in a male-dominated industry. She trusts her own judgment and doesn’t rely on the validation of others to know her worth. Definitely a woman ahead of her time in the 1940’s (character and author). It is so unfortunate that this is a message that women still need to hear today.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 22, 2022 at 08:28

      Hello Suzanne, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our Book Club meetings and learned so much from the other members of the group. I’ve not heard of the books you mentioned but definitely will check them out. I agree, it seems hard to believe that the message still has to be raised today in our modern world. xx

  • Reply Denyse Whelan Blogs March 19, 2022 at 12:53

    Great write up and re-cap Sue. I am incredibly impressed by the depth of knowledge and experiences the book group has brought you all as participants. Great linking to the current women’s rights and scenarios. Go, us!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 22, 2022 at 08:28

      Hi Denyse, I’m loving how our Book Club really delves into the books and the authors. I’ve learned so much from the other members in the group. xx

  • Reply Do you collect quotes? (And March 2022 reads) – Eat, Play, Live March 19, 2022 at 15:13

    […] #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge: Deb, Sue, Donna, and Jo.  […]

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 22, 2022 at 08:30

      Thanks for joining in this month for What’s On Your Bookshelf? x

  • Reply Janet Alcorn March 20, 2022 at 11:38

    I love this post. I knew the Brontes were groundbreaking and not the stereotypical retiring women of their day, but I didn’t realize how directly they confronted sexism and misogyny. I haven’t read anything by them since my undergrad years. I need to fix that.

    • Reply Janet Alcorn March 20, 2022 at 11:39

      Oops. Nesting fail. This wasn’t supposed to be a reply to the comment above. Sorry.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 22, 2022 at 08:31

      Hi Janet, I love how our Book Club delves into the authors as well as the books. Many women authors were the same as the Brontes but I used Charlotte as an example because we had just finished studying her works.

  • Reply Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com March 21, 2022 at 11:19

    Most likely I won’t read all of the Bronte sisters’ books like you have, but I’m enjoying these wrap-ups. Now, if I could only arrange for Jo to send me the final bake for each one. 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 22, 2022 at 08:39

      I enjoyed studying the Bronte sisters’ books Janis but may not have read them all if it wasn’t for the book club. The post book baking is a lovely way to finish each book. I’ll get Jo to send you some of what we make! xx

  • Reply What do you do when you are in a reading rut? (April 2022 reads) – Eat, Play, Live April 23, 2022 at 04:25

    […] Tags: #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge by Deb, Sue, Donna, and Jo.  […]

    • Reply Sue Loncaric April 24, 2022 at 18:00

      Thanks for joining in our What’s On Your Bookshelf? again this month. Happy reading!

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