In the words of ......

“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. 

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex”.

When do you think this was written?

Written by whom ?

It sounds very modern, it could be mistaken as  quite feminist in its views. 

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation.

This was written in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte and can be found in her most famous book Jane Eyre. 

I have just finished reading Jane Eyre as part of my book club. I haven't read it in many years, ever since I was in my early twenties (I first read the book at school as part of our English reading list). Things I missed then, I am picking up now such as this quote. It reveals and demonstrates a great deal about Charlotte Bronte and what she thought of her situation. Whilst many women of her time accepted "their lot" (they didn't have any choice), not all women were willing to do this. It is important to remember that women of Charlotte Bronte's class didn't clean their houses or even spend all day with their children - they had servants and nannies to do all the hard work, so their days were spent "knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags"  or having afternoon teas with other women just like them. No wonder they struggle with trying not to become "stagnate" and bore.  

There is a belief that women of the past wanted and liked their situation and were quite content, but the more I read the more I discover that some women did struggled with the social norms places upon them and some (those who had the skills, money and know-how) broke free and pursed other interests such as painting, music and literature - many went abroad for months on end for find ways of entertaining themselves and to break up the boredom they had at home. The fact is, we will never really know the number of unhappy or discontented women of the past, as most had no voice unlike the Brontes who could talk their novels. Most women just got on with life and suffered in silences, especially those without the money or social connections. 

Are you a fan of Jane Eyre? 



  1. I am happy for the freedom and privileges that today's woman gets to experience, Jo. Wonderful post!
    Blessings :-)

    1. Thanks - I'm with Charlotte Bronte on this one! I too am glad women can make choices these days.

  2. hmm, as you say, the restraint was placed on middle class or rich women, working class and poor women didn't have the luxury of becoming bored. However, if it were not for these 'bored' women we would not have the benefits of education and the opportunities that we enjoy today. I do, however, take issue with women like Nigella Lawson who for years have portrayed a lifestyle where women can work and yet be 'domestic godesses' and thereby put untold pressure on women to realise unrealistic goals, and even worse, to feel guilty when they fail.
    I also object to the sidelining of women who choose to stay at home and look after their families. There seems to be an undercurrent of feeling that they are second class citizens not least by other women.
    Surely 'liberation' means having the ability and freedom to choose which lifestyle suits you best and may well involve compromise of the many sterotypes women are subject to. No choice should be held in higher regard than another.
    *Gets off her soapbox*
    I've always like the Brontes but I was always a Wuthering Heights girl when I was younger, Jane Eyre has grown on me as I grew older :)

    1. One would never have wanted to be poor in those days - the women did it very tough and of course many died in childbirth too.

      Women can be very mean to each other and the battles between working mothers and those that stay at home is just plain silly.

      I have never been fan a of Wuthering Heights and its sad all round! Whereas Jane Eyre has such a lovely ending.

  3. ah .. but high drama and tragedy are so attractive when one is young don't you think? ;)

  4. Big fan of Jane Eyre. The Lord God created us to have opinions. So thankful for the woman who stood up and spoke, even if it was in a novel.

    1. It is interesting to read this old classics as you can find out some much about the author as their share their own voice through their characters.


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