Harriet Martineau

By Arianna Taylor

Harriet Martineau was the sixth of eight children to grow up in the upper middle class Martineau home in Norwich, England. Her parents were both very well educated and her father was a "devout humanitarian." Due to traumatic events in her childhood that caused her to have her own psychological damage, Harriet always had a desire to know why the human mind was the way it was from an early age. She developed a maternal instinct towards her little brother and little sister. She once said "I like viewing the human mind from the very beginning," in reference to her little sister. When her father died, she had to help her family because they went into an economic decline. She said that she "felt free in facing the reality of making her own living." Harriet never married and went on to become the first female sociologist.

Sociological Accomplishments

  • She wrote short stories to make difficult to understand topics understood by a larger group of people (ex: her book 'Illustrations of Political Economy').
  • Was one of the first Victorian women to address women's roles in society.
  • added to the ideas of Locke and Rousseau to emphasize the importance of parental love in child development.
  • wrote 'The Martyr Age of the United States' which was about women's involvement in the anti-slavery movement.
  • All of her ideas were far ahead of her time for example, hypnosis, and atheism. her theories on evolution of religion was that atheism would become more widely excepted.
  • One of the first practicing Journalists in England.
  • First to translate August Compte's work from French to English
  • Was very involved in religious tolerance.
  • Wrote 'Society in America' and questioned America's moral integrity.
  • Overall, examined social class, religion, national character, suicide, and domestic relations and how these things effect individuals and society.