Jane: in need of a ‘competence’

A money box, probably from last century. Without money and without the the means to make money, women were in a very precarious position.

A money box, probably from last century. Without money and without the the means to make money, women were in a very precarious position.

Dear reader, as you may have noticed I find it annoying when I read in some sources that Jane Austen lived a sheltered life. It is as if we believe that women somehow were immune to the troubles that were going on around them. Surely it is more accurate to say that as women had no economic or political power they were in a much more precarious position; they had to learn to suffer in silence as their needs and wants were mostly unconsidered when the important decisions were being made. When we acquiesce and label women like Jane Austen as “sheltered”,  it is as if we are buying into the propaganda of the times that by treating them as inconsequential we are really protecting and sheltering them. Women may not have had a voice but they were neither deaf or blind. They may not have had a means to make money but this made their life more difficult not “sheltered”.

For example, the life changing decision that Mr and Mrs Austen made that the family were to move to Bath devastated the twenty-five year old Jane. The decision was made to give the first born, James Austen, the living that Mr Austen had held. Jane was to be uprooted from much that she loved and moved to the fashionable town of Bath. Jane and her sister Cassandra were not even consulted. Jane arrived back from an extended visit and was told. It showed daughters didn’t have a say. Boys had to be given priority. And that money, or the want of money, ruled.

The Paragon, Bath

The Paragon, Bath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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