Fearless Women in History: Charlotte Brontë

On this day in history, Charlotte Brontë  declined a marriage offer from Reverend Henry Nussey on the grounds that she was too “romantic and eccentric” and not suited to be a clergyman’s wife. In the mid-19th century, women didn’t have many options when it came to providing for themselves, so turning down a marriage proposal could be considered a risky move.

Instead, Charlotte worked as a teacher and governess to support her brother’s literary aspirations. Unfortunately, Branwell Brontë succumbed to alcohol and opium abuse and later died when he accidentally set fire to his bed.

Charlotte went on to publish under the pen name Currer Bell, releasing Jane Eyre in 1847.

Although fearless and independent, Charlotte did not go on to have a happy life. She survived her five siblings, Maria and Elizabeth, who died very young, Branwell, Emily (of Wuthering Heights fame), and Anne (author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), cared for her father, and went on to marry his curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, a year after publishing Villette. She died while pregnant after being married for only nine months. Charlotte Bronte was just short of her 39th birthday.

It’s interesting to consider what might have happened had Charlotte accepted Reverend Nussey’s proposal. Would she have gone on to publish in an age when such options were limited for women or been lost to mediocrity for the sake of security and social acceptance?

 

Source:  This Day in History – Charlotte Brontë declines marriage

Women in History: Alma Mahler

Alma Mahler was one of the most interesting women in late 19th/early 20th century Vienna. Her (male) contemporaries also found her fascinating, and an astounding number of creative men fell victim to her charms—painter Gustav Klimt, composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, artist Oskar Kokoschka, and writer Franz Werfel are just some of them.

While she wielded a good deal of power over her men, she was not always free from pressure from them. As a young woman, she studied music and counterpoint and had begun to compose art songs when she married Gustav Mahler, who made her promise to give up composing music. He didn’t want his wife to be his competitor.

I’ve always wondered how her life would have been different if she had told him to take a hike and kept on with her creative pursuit instead of becoming involved with one creative man after another.