So, as I mentioned in a previous post, March is Women’s History Month and I thought that it was the perfect opportunity for a little collaboration project! Throughout the month of March I’m going to be featuring guest bloggers who will tell you all about their favourite woman from history.
First up, Lizzie from History Lizzie talks about why her favourite historical woman is Jane Austen and what she’s learnt from her novels.
You can read more of Lizzie’s stuff by visiting her blog https://historylizzie.co.uk/ or by following her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest @historylizzie
My Favourite Woman in History: Jane Austen (1775-1817)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that I have loved and been inspired by Jane Austen and her words since a summer holiday when I was nine years old to Bath, when I first read Pride and Prejudice. Since then, it’s been a head over heels kind of love and admiration for a woman who lived a relatively short life but passed on some important lessons through the six full-length novels and other writings she left behind. Here are some of my favourite things I’ve learned from Austen:
Raising questions about the position of women in society
Austen’s novels are more satirical and wittier than many realise. She highlights in both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility the unfairness of the estate passing to the nearest male relative, rather than treasured and sensible daughters. The heroine of Mansfield Park, Fanny Price, allowed Austen to expose many hypocrisies of the society she herself experienced, showing a character who was generally deemed the poor relation to be stronger and more steadfast than those deemed her betters. The importance of female friendships is a theme that follows throughout all her novels, showing a sense of sisterhood and solidarity that translates immediately to the modern reader.
Getting your happy ending through aiming for what you know you deserve
Austen wrote complex heroines which are often seen as only receiving happiness and a happy conclusion once they are married. In fact, each novel follows the heroine on a journey of self-discovery in which she cannot select a husband until she has found out more about the world around her, and ultimately herself. For Elizabeth Bennet, that means being less judgemental and cynical; Elinor Dashwood to speak her feelings more; Emma Woodhouse less controlling; Anne Elliot learning to follow her own path; Catherine Morland to not let her imagination run away with her; and Fanny Price, to grow in confidence. Her heroines are relatable in their character flaws and desire to achieve happiness upon their own terms.
Be tenacious and believe in your own work.
Austen did not have a novel published until she was nearly thirty-six years old, when Sense and Sensibility appeared in 1811. However, she had obviously begun writing various drafts of her novels, as well as her juvenilia and other works, much earlier: her road to publication was a somewhat complicated one. Whilst Austen died before all six of her novels were published and left behind two incomplete novels in the form of The Watsons and Sanditon, the love all around the world for the words she left behind, which endure as timeless classics, demonstrates the importance of her tenacity in trying to get them published. I think it’s an important message to believe in ourselves and our own to achieve our dreams.
Helen’s take on Jane Austen
I absolutely love that Lizzie chose Jane Austen as her favourite historical woman, Pride and Prejudice is one of my absolute faves and she’s been on my list for a while. There’s no doubt about the influence Jane’s work has had on literature and society despite her work not being published until after her death. I particularly enjoy and admire how Jane brought in real world experiences, such as contracting typhoid at an early age, to her work. It is because of this I believe her novels have stood the test of time.