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Female icons and the city of Bath

Women don't always feature in the history and heritage of a place. This isn't the case in Bath. I want to tell you about three strong females that have made an impact on the city, and far beyond!

Our first lady is Jane Austen. She lived in the city during the early 1800s. As an unmarried woman, Jane initially relied upon her brothers to support her financially. Between 1811 and 1817, she wrote six major novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion) which have made her one of the most famous writers in English literature. Her books, which frequently explored the difficulties faced by women navigating society in the 1800s, have been popular across the globe and have been adapted into films and theatre productions. There is a museum dedicated to Jane Austen at 40 Gay Street. Here you can find out more about her life and work.

Our second remarkable lady is Mary Shelley. Mary moved to Bath as a teenager. Her rented lodgings have since been demolished, but the location (beside the Roman Baths) is marked with a plaque. It is believed that Mary began writing Frankenstein in Bath during the autumn and winter of 1816 to 1817. At this time, she was still a teenager. Frankenstein is often thought of as the world's first science fiction novel. Mary published Frankenstein anonymously as it wasn't socially acceptable for women of the time to be published authors. At number 37 Gay Street, there is a visitor attraction set up in Mary's honour. Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein contains unusual artefacts, smells and special effects.

Our third "celebrated heroine" is Caroline Herschel. Caroline and her brother William were astronomers, who lived in Bath during the late 1700s. William designed telescopes and his work helped us to understand the size of the solar system. Caroline had a difficult childhood. As one of five children, she had a disfigured eye (from contracting smallpox as a toddler) and stunted growth (from contracting Typhus around the age of 10). Later in life, Caroline went to live with William and they worked together on William's projects. At the age of 36, Caroline discovered an unknown comet in the constellation Leo. This led to her gaining recognition in her own right. She received money from King George to work alongside her brother, making her the first professional female astronomer. Caroline went on to discover more comets and gained celebrity status as 'the hunter of comets'. The Herschel's home in Bath has been preserved as a Museum of Astronomy.

All three of these women have plaques and permanent exhibitions dedicated to them within the city of Bath. They really were ahead of their time and it's great to see a city that embraces and celebrates the achievements of both the men and women that have lived there. Find out more about these heroines and their influence on society and a lot of other interesting facts in my recently uploaded self-guided tour around the City of Bath.


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