Inspiring Professional Women
Jane Austen (1775-1817) was a writer at a time when very few women had a public voice. She initially published her novels anonymously, with the help of her father and brother, as she might not otherwise have been able to do so. You might think that her work is the ultimate in period chick-lit, but she wrote about adulterous affairs, social climbers and gold-diggers.
She was funny and witty, and presented her heroines as thoughtful and intelligent, but sometimes flawed. She gently mocked other novelists and genres, particularly the gothic horror stories so popular at the time. Her letters about the people around her were even more blunt – so much so, that her niece, a very proper Victorian lady in later life – rather regretted the language and manners of her aunt. Jane’s home life was incredibly limited, as a girl, in a large family with little money.
She picked up her education mostly from her parents and her brothers, spent most of her life in the countryside, and never married, but was bold and daring in her writing, and somehow made sure that her novels were published – and left us with some of the most enduring heroes and heroines in English literature.
At a time when such a tiny proportion of women were authors, Jane Austen stands out from her modest background just for having the ambition to publish and be different to the young ladies of her acquaintance and, indeed, her own heroines.
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