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.
- 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)
- 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.”
- 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’.
- 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?
- 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.
- In Jane Eyre we written by we see the role of the governess as ‘awkward invisbility’ (Catherine Reef)
- 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……
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!
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See you next month!
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