Tag Archives: feminism

What about some of Jane’s less-than-kind comments in her letters?

Jane’s letters to Cassandra fulfilled a very important purpose. They were to lift the spirits. They are full of gossip and jokes. Sometimes the jokes fall flat, like the time Jane passed on the news of a stillbirth. She comments, “it was owing to a fright. – I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.” Continue reading

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What can a character, even a minor character, say about an author’s views?

Mrs Crofts, a minor character in Persuasion, says much about Jane Austen‘s views on equality. Unencumbered by children, she travels the world with her husband.

The Crofts show the way to an equal and fulfilling relationship even in a time of hypocrisy. Continue reading

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Why is Catherine Middleton respected?

Kate, the Dutchess of Cambridge, on Buckingham...

Kate, the Dutchess of Cambridge, on Buckingham Palace balcony after her wedding to Prince William. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jane Austen seemed to like to make the self important fall and the ordinary and unimportant shine. The Very-Very-Important-and-Vain-Sir Walter Elliot, in Persuasion, believes in consequence. To be important, to be special, is to him the most important concern of life. To be honest and to pay one’s debts does not really figure. Who can forget Austen’s opening lines:

Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, ……..

“Heir presumptive, William Walter Elliot, Esq., great grandson of the second Sir Walter.” Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation.

He is in direct contrast to his youngest daughter, Virtuous but Undervalued Anne. She realises her own insignificance and finds pleasure in friends and social responsibilities rather than her own consequence. She treats all others with respect. As she describes herself, “she is no card player”. She feels compassion for those less wealthy and does not reject friends just because they are down on their luck. She has her priorities right.

Maybe this is why Catherine Middleton is so popular – she also seems to have her priorities right? Continue reading

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What do Fanny and Julia have in common?

Once upon a time in a little land called Australia, ok it was a big land but a small population, there was a female politician called Julia. She had been born from immigrants who had seen education as the key to advancement and this she did. She advanced in spades until one day she entered Parliament. She worked hard, got on well with others and negotiated through such hostile environments that she was accepted and became very important – so important that she played second fiddle to the very important white males who were the leaders. And then one day, when things weren’t going so well amongst the important white males she thought she may as well be the leader. Naturally, as happens in quaint little democracies, there were loud howls of protest. But she put her head down, did what lots of women do, cleaned up the mess, and got on with business. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Jane and the ‘f’ word

English: One of the symbols of German Women's ...

English: One of the symbols of German Women’s movement (from the 1970s) Deutsch: Ein Logo der deutschen Frauenbewegung (aus den 70er Jahren) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is timely with the passing of International Women’s Day for another year that we consider Jane and the f word: can we use feminism in regard to Austen?  As a woman who grew up in the seventies and seemed to inhale feminist values, I never thought of Jane Austen as someone who help feminist values. Emily or Charlotte Bronte – yes. Mary Wollstonecraft -yes.  Her daughter Mary Shelley– yes. But Austen no. Can we use the f word when we are talking about the Austen Six? Previously I had assumed that my search for feminism would be fruitless; that somehow Austen is about old fashioned values and archaic ways that are an anathema to modern women and feminism. It must have been the fairytale weddings at the end of the books that made me hesitant. And for very good reason; women today want to be more than just the woman who gets married at the end of the novel; they want to be more than someone’s mother, wife or daughter. But when I obsessively re-read and search for the feminism in Austen to my surprise I do find it. What is good news for Austen fans is that if you look deeply into the Austen Six there is ample evidence that Austen wanted women to be equal; she was disdainful about the sexist double standards in her society and that the heroines that she created were indeed feisty and independent women.

What sort of women do we want our girls to become? Continue reading

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Jane’s mother’s little helper at Jane’s birth – Philadelphia Austen Hancock

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Jane’s birthday was yesterday and in her honour I ask: who was with Jane’s mother, when Jane was born? Interestingly it was her sister-in-law Philadelphia Austen Hancock, George Austen’s sister. From this we can assume that Phila, as she was called, was a well liked and trusted sister-in-law. George, Phila and Leonora were left orphaned and penniless but with family connections – their mother had been a baronet’s daughter. George used education as an avenue for advancement but this was not an option for Phila.  Denied an education as a path to advancement she initially stayed living in London with an aunt. She had no dowry and so had to work for a living, hence she was apprenticed to a milliner in Covent Garden. It must have been a big step down for this baronet’s granddaughter. At that time, many milliner shops around Covent Garden were actually Continue reading

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