By Carolina Criscione, Assistant to the Curators
On November 17th, The Armstrong Browning Library had the distinct privilege to learn about a fascinating historical figure in the lecture “Harriet Martineau, Spirit of the Victorian Age” from the distinguished Dr. Deborah A. Logan, this year’s speaker for Benefactors Day. Benefactors Day is a yearly celebration of our wonderful community of supporters that ensures the future of the Armstrong Browning Library’s scholarship and programming work. A professor emerita of Victorian Literature at Western Kentucky University, Dr. Logan captured this year’s audience by shedding light on the life and works of the Victorian author, economist, journalist, sociologist, and Browning correspondent, Harriet Martineau.
It is safe to say that if Martineau had a LinkedIn profile back in the day, her accomplishments, publications, and skills sections would run about a mile long. As a self-supported woman, who was also deaf and battled long bouts of illness, Martineau refused to be contained by the typical societal constraints placed on Victorian women. She was a widely celebrated and respected writer in her day and offered progressive ideas to Victorian society about the world around her. Martineau wrote about topics ranging from the global anti-slavery movement, religion, health, farming, and the economy (to mention just a few). Her book Illustrations of Political Economy (1832) was an instant success, even though Martineau’s literary and intellectual fame came with its fair share of detractors and challenges. In this lecture, Dr. Logan emphasized Martineau’s commitment to exploring the relationship between one’s principles and practices. Dr. Logan offered insight into Martineau’s life based on her extensive research into the author’s personal correspondence and on her own exploration of the geographic world Martineau inhabited (Dr. Logan once stayed the night in Martineau’s room!). The afternoon’s lecture finished with a Q&A session, which was then followed by lively discussion during a reception in the Cox Reception Hall. For those interested in learning more about Harriet Martineau, we have included a recording of Dr. Logan’s lecture here: baylor.edu/library/martineau
Also accompanying the special event was the official debut of several items related to Harriet Martineau, donated to the ABL by Dr. Logan herself! Dr. Logan’s gift includes over 100 volumes of literary works by Martineau, as well as scholarly critiques, all of which are now available at the library for research. The ABL invites you to visit the Hankamer Treasure Room to view the temporary display, curated by graduate assistant Anna Clark, highlighting the recent acquisition. You can also learn more about the collection here .The Martineau display will be available through 1 March 2023.
We look forward to the future scholarship and learning this collection will facilitate, especially in bringing female historians like Martineau back into the narratives of history. We are very grateful for Dr. Logan’s support for the Armstrong Browning Library’s mission and are thankful for all ABL benefactors who make our research, collection expansion, and programming possible. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s Benefactor Day!