Tuesday, May 9, 2017

'What Regency Women Did for Us'

At the first read of the title, it looks like a book for popular consumption about brave women, but once you start reading it, it is hard to leave it. Created as a collection of well-documented 12 stories about brilliant women from the Regency period, it brings to life not only unknown facts and portraits of courageous ladies but also might create role models.
My first meeting with Regency novels occured quite recently and I was happy to develop my knowledge about this period of time. Historically, it covers the 9 years between 1811-1820, when the UK was ruled by a Regent, during the illness of George III. The novels of the time are usually considered as models of romance, elegance and etiquette, but there are also stories of struggle for being recognized at least as human beings if not equal partners in marriage, business or education. The attitude towards women remain ambivalent, although there is more opening in terms of social acceptance. For instance, women were allowed to attend various public conferences on sciences, but they were deprived of the right of applying for membership to academic institutions. 
This book by Rachel Knowles brings to life the stories of women mostly forgotten but with a serious academic and feminist legacy. Besides the famous Jane Austen, there are less known personalities with valuable scientific contributions such as the astronomer Caroline Herschel, the 'engineering enthusiast' Sarah Guppy, Jane Marcet, Faraday's teacher or the famous Madame Tussaud. The biographies are written classically, covering the main events of their life, with a short subchapter dedicated to their legacy. Each of the stories can be used for further academic studies or for an inspiring lecture about forgotten successful women. 
It is a pleasant yet inspiring read recommended to anyone looking to learn more about Regency, but also to understand the hard work and struggle of women to be recognized and considered as intelligent, value-driven creatures. 

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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