Ranting About Literature—Victorian Authoresses and Their Badassery

Yeah, I’ve got another rant in me about Victorian Literature. This time though, my focus is on the female authors of the time and how they were badasses. Wish I’d been this vocal in college. It’s a bit too late for extra credit.

Now, like our heroines in Victorian novels, a lot of people cannot understand why these books written by women are a big deal. After all, most of them are just love stories, aren’t they? That’s not really high literature, is it?

Ugh. Gross attitude, by the way.

If we’re honest, most of us don’t look at romance and love as badass. I’d actually say more people look down on romance as a genre. So, of course these will-they-won’t-they stories don’t seem badass at all.

But, again, I this is why we need to time-travel while reading: these stories are badass for the Victorian Age. The rules and social norms thrust upon people in that era were strict—and female authors were not looked upon highly.

Female Authors in the Victorian Era

I’m not gonna pretend that our world and society is perfect. There’s a lot of things I’d change.

But that being said, there’s a lot I’m grateful for. I’m able to work and earn my own way. I can rely on myself and live my life for me—the way I want to. I can earn degrees, build my career, and I don’t have to fear if I don’t marry or have kids. We’ve grown a lot in the past centuries, and it’s something I actively try to remember.

In the Victorian Age, women were expected to be seen, not heard. Submissive and subdued. Fall in line behind the men. The image painted of the typical woman in Victorian Literature was accurate. They were expected to marry and have kids; that was the best way to ensure their own livelihood and future. If they didn’t, they were considered a burden to society, an old maid.

If you were a woman and you wanted to write, you can bet it wasn’t seen as a good thing.

So, the fact that we see so many female authors coming out of the Victorian Era is pretty awesome. These women and their bravery to put their voice and words out in the world paved the way for female writers today—so that we could do the same.

That’s not to say women shouldn’t marry and bear children; I am a very strong advocate of “you do you”. You gotta live your life in the way that feels right for you. So long as you are not hurting anyone or taking away another’s rights, you do you.

But in these Victorian women deciding they wanted to write and be seen for the words they wrote and published is incredibly badass to me. While I’ve got my own private fears of writing and publishing my writing, I don’t have the same fears and concerns they must have had. Even with my fears, I’d like to think no one will shame me for being a woman with a mind as many Victorian authoresses would’ve been shamed for.

Writing these books, and daring their names to be put on them, was an act of rebellion—and that is badass. To see the rise of female authors at that period in history is beautiful and inspiring.

Romance and Love Stories

Ahh, romance. One of the genres that catches the most crap. I mean, let’s be honest: a lot of the romance in romance novels is unrealistic.

But there is something to be said about female authors writing love stories in the Victorian Age.

Because while it’s badass in its own right that they’re writing and earning their own living, they’re also writing about love. And at the time, love wasn’t a requirement for marriage. Many married without love. Or they might grow into love, or at least companionship. Those that were able to marry for love might be considered lucky, but only if they had fortune and wealth to live to go along with it.

Love was not a requirement for marriage; financial security and the ability to live was.

So we roll our eyes at the declarations of love and devotion that these Victorian stories promote, but we’re talking about a time period where everyone was incredibly repressed. They were tied down to rules and the rights-and-wrongs of society. And women were expected to marry, bear children, and not be ‘old maids and burdens to their parents’. Considering these societal expectations, a man actively and openly confessing deep feelings of love for you was likely seen as revolutionary.

Perhaps these women were writing these stories, seeking out something greater in their lives: more love and devotion; more ability to be themselves openly and be loved for that; less people being tied down to the strictness of society.

Love stories can be revolutionary when duty and good fortune were far more important than the whims of love.

More Than Love Stories?

But for some of these authors, they aren’t just writing about love. Sure, it may be central to the plot, but some book show the authors were thinking much deeper than just romance.

One of the reasons I adore North and South is because it’s also a political commentary.

More than the love story between Margaret and John Thornton, it’s the story of a woman who navigated the tumultuous relationship between masters of industry and the workers. Those conflicts between masters and workers are still issues that affect us to this day.

Elizabeth Gaskell in her time was not only a female writer. She was a writer of a novel that made people think about the political and societal issues of the time. How can anyone say that’s not badass? Especially when we know what life was like for Victorian women?

Final Thoughts

Honestly, reading reviews and comments on the internet sometimes just sends me off on a tangent. That’s what a lot of these recent literature rants have come from. And since I’ve got my own author website, why not use the space to rant a little bit, eh?

I don’t like hearing that these women and their characters are somehow boring or less important than modern heroines. They’re strong in a very different way.

The beauty in these stories is that women were writing them. They stood out in a world that them they must remain unseen. Instead, they declared, “I can think and write on my own merit, and I want to share that with the world”. Their books and writing were declarations of their own skills and abilities—a defiance of a world that told them to stay silent. And in some ways, maybe it was a cry to see love be more valued over duty.

And I can’t help but think that’s pretty damn badass.

When we read books from times long past, let’s make an effort to travel back to that time and see it must’ve meant back then. Otherwise, we lose a lot of the meaning in these tales. If we lose that meaning, then we miss out on opportunities for greater understanding and inspiration in our own lives.

(Originally posted at: Write it up ye)

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