Florence Nightingale

1820-1910

On her return from the Crimea in 1856 Florence spent more and more time in bed, partly because she was an invalid and partly because it suited her to work while reclining. She had also, as an old woman, started to lose her sight, which fact she tried to keep private, but this restricted her ability to write and work – and change the World - her driving force throughout her life.

Charlotte Brontë

1816-1855

Charlotte became Mrs Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854. Her brother, Branwell, her sisters, Emily and Anne, had died, 1848/49. Her father, Rev Patrick Brontë, was becoming blind. Charlotte accepted Arthur’s marriage proposal, her fourth one, and by so doing was able to secure Haworth Parsonage as home for her father and her family; the church otherwise would have required them to leave, due to Patrick’s failing sight.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

1806-1861

Elizabeth married Robert Browning on September 12th 1846. She returned home to Wimpole St, keeping her marriage a secret from her family, and then left for Italy with Robert on September 19th 1846. Elizabeth’s father never forgave her for her marriage and did not communicate with her after it had taken place.

Mrs Emma Lavinia Hardy

1840-1912

The first wife of Thomas Hardy, always thought of herself as being of higher class and better educated than her husband. During their thirty-eight year marriage she became increasingly dismissive of her husband’s novels and disliked ‘Jude the Obscure’ for its anti- Christian sentiments. Towards the end of her life she chose to live in the attic of their house, ‘Max Gate’, leaving Thomas increasingly frequently in the company of Florence Dugdale, who was to become his second wife.

Queen Victoria

Victoria became the Queen of England in 1837. Due to many of her more eligible relations dying giving birth or dying being born, she became Queen. When the royal household moved from Kensington to Buckingham Palace the Duchess of Kent, who from this date lost all influence over her daughter, watched Victoria become a joyful, permanently high-spirited young Queen.

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley, born in 1797, was the daughter of William Godwin, a political thinker and writer and of Mary Wolstencraft, who wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’. Shelley, who revered the deceased Mary Wolstencraft, ran away with her daughter, Mary, who was then nineteen. They holidayed near Geneva, in the company of Byron and John Polidori in the summer of 1816, where Mary started to write ‘Frankenstein.’

Sarah Bernhardt

A fascinating French actress who toured the World playing extraordinary romantic figures. She designed a bed for herself, in which she could be transported, after her right leg was amputated in February 1915, when she was in her early seventies. She toured to the front in World War One and performed for the troops from her bed. She continued to perform, saying that she would act, even if she was 'strapped' to the scenery. She also started to perform on film and is, even now, readily available to be seen on YouTube.