Happy 1st of December! I’m back with yet another Feminist Sunday 🙂
Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.
Today I’ll be presenting you a personal favourite of mine and my readers: 19th century English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. You can read a more extensive biography and study of her main works here. But today I will give you a quick profile on her:
- Name: Elizabeth Gaskell
- Dates and place: Born in London in 1810. Died in Holybourne while visiting her daughters from a heart attack in 1865.
- Historical period: Victorian literature.
- Famous for: Being a woman who lived by the pen and enjoyed Charles Dickens’ admiration and friendship. Her novels center around a female character (or a group of them) in order to build a strong social criticism or prove that women are far more than society thought. Her most well-known novels are Cranford, Ruth, North and South and Wives and Daughters. She also penned Charlotte Brontë’s biography whom she deeply admired.
- Cranford (1851): Elizabeth Gaskell’s most famous novel tells the story of an English town populated only by women. A forgotten classic in most academic programmes, the work creates a powerful discourse highlighting women’s ability to live on their own, either as single women or as a widows, and breaks away with the idea of women competing against one another. The ladies of Cranford, all connected and friends with each other, created a community for women to live comfortably and trusting one another. Some critics suggest that Cranford revolutionised women’s space by extending their domestic influence into a whole town and experimenting with social rules, conventions and women’s roles. The novel is divided into short chapters relating to the different women and their different life experiences as well as their connection to the Amazonian group that Cranford is.
- My favourite quote from Cranford (1851):
An old lady had an Alderney cow, which she looked upon as a daughter. ….The whole town knew and kindly regarded Miss Betsy Barker’s Alderney, therefore great was the sympathy and regret when, in an unguarded moment, the poor cow fell into a lime-pit. She moaned so loudly that she was soon heard and rescued; but meanwhile the poor beast had lost most of her hair and came out looking naked, cold and miserable, in a bare skin. Everybody pitied the animal, though a few could not restrain their smiles at her droll appearance. Miss Betsy Barker absolutely cried with sorrow and dismay; and it was said she thought of trying a bath of oil. This remedy, perhaps, was recommended by some one of the number whose advice she asked; but the proposal, if ever it was made, was knocked on the head by Captain Brown’s decided “Get her a flannel waistcoat and flannel drawers, ma’am, if you wish to keep her alive, But my advice is, kill the poor creature at once.”
Miss Betsy Barker dried her eyes, and thanked the Captain heartily; she set to work, and by-and-by all the town turned out to see the Alderney meekly going to her pasture, clad in dark grey flannel. I have watched her myself many a time. Do you ever see cows dressed in grey flannel in London?
You can download all her works for free here.