The Harriet Martineau Lecture celebrates the legacy of a remarkable, world-changing woman by inviting globally-renowned radical speakers to respond to her life and work.
Harriet Martineau (1802 – 1876) was a 19th century radical and the world’s first female retained journalist. She was a progressive thinker and bestselling writer who spent her life championing economic fairness, racial equality, women’s rights, the abolition of slavery, secularism in thought and the struggle for a more just society.
Her novel Deerbrook (1839) was an important bridge between Jane Austen and George Eliot and inspired Virginia Woolf, and later in life she instigated a formidable partnership with Florence Nightingale to campaign for better hospitals. Internationally her persistent pro-Lincoln journalistic coverage of the American Civil War made her a celebrated campaigner.
Although history has not been kind to her, she was a remarkable, world-changing woman, and her influence can be detected around the globe to this day.
The first Harriet Martineau Lecture was delivered by Ali Smith in May 2013 and featured a call to draw Harriet Martineau’s face onto £5 notes in protest at the decision to remove Elizabeth Fry from the same note. Since then the likes of Kate Mosse, Masha Gessen, Linton Kwesi-Johnson and Sarah Perry have given the lecture, variously exploring Martineau’s internationalism, inspiration for feminism, and role in the abolition of slavery.
With thanks to The Martineau Society, who have kindly supported the 2019 and 2020 Harriet Martineau Lecture.