Biography on Harriet Martineau

Biography on Harriet Martineau

Biography of Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau (1802-1874) was the daughter of an English textile manufacturer who lost
his business during a depression in 1825 and died in 1826. Martineau supported herself, her
mother, a crippled sister, and alcoholic brother by writing. Her publications include thousands of
articles and many books. She was considered the “founding mother of sociology”. (1)

Her career began when she wrote her first article for the Unitarian Journal called, “On Female
Education for the Unitarian Journal”. She was acutely aware of the discrepancies in
opportunities between males and females. She was an outspoken critic of injustices such as
against women, slaves, children, mentally ill, the poor and prostitutes. She studied the social
stratification in Europe and America. She advocated protective legislation, equal rights and
education including medical education for women. (2) She also wrote a very popular 34 book
series published in 1832-1834 called, “Illustrations of Political Economy; A Scholarly History of
England. But her most famous work would have to be her translation of Auguste Comte’s, Les
Cours de Philosophie Positive, from French to English. This and her first book on social
research, How to Observe Manners and Morals (1838) established her as the founding mother
of sociology.

Because of her blunt exposure of inequality, Martineau was denounced and ignored by many
historians. In contrast to de Tocqueville's 1835, Democracy in America, Martineau's book
Society in America published in 1837, was incisively critical of America's failure to realize the full
potential of citizen empowerment in democracy. She felt that America was hypocritical in it’s
ideology versus what they actually practiced in law and daily life. She argues in the chapter,
"The Political Non-existence of Women," that women were indulged instead of treated equally,
bolstering her claim that they were treated like...

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