Harriet Martineau

By Jordan Stoops

Background Information

Born in 1802, Harriet Martineau was born to a Unitarian, upper-middle class family. Harriet's father was an importer of wine and a manufacturer of textiles and was part of an elite literary circle. Her mother, an intelligent woman, mostly raised her and instilled self-doubt in her that really impacted her and how she viewed her upbringing. Although her childhood was less than ideal for her, Harriet enjoyed being a mother figure to her two youngest siblings. Throughout her childhood she was very devout in her self-teachings and later after being moved to live with her aunt and uncle, due to her deafness, her uncle taught her the things that were exclusively taught to men. After her father died and her family went into economic decline, Harriet was able to get out of her planned marriage and support herself financially. She loved the freedom it brought and remained single for the rest of her life. She devoted herself to writing and published many different types of works, like transcripts, manuals, children's books, novels, reviews, biographies, and everything in between. She died of illness in 1876 and had already prepared her obituary 20 years in advanced.

Ten Facts

  1. Translated Auguste Comte's Cours de philosophie positive from French to English which aided in the introduction of positivism to American thought.
  2. Noticed the relationship between slavery and the oppression of women; the lack of economic power keeps them, the women and slaves, depressed.
  3. First woman sociologist.
  4. Studied the English and American societies especially the slave system and the economy.
  5. Classified as a feminist as she is interested in the equality of humans.
  6. Used her Unitarianism beliefs to develop her studies, such as humans create the sin in the world therefore they can fix the problems in the world.
  7. Believed in necessarianism which meant that everything that happened was because of what happened before. This meant that humans have no free will and only do things because of what happened preceding.
  8. Believed that in order to fix human problems was through science and better education.
  9. Thought that the differing of classes was due to the misunderstanding of capitalism, the economic system where the industry and trade are controlled by private owners rather than the state.
  10. Believed that societies should not be analyzed by comparing its society to others.