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“Non aver tema, disse il mio Signore:
Fatti sicur, chè noi siamo a buon punto:
Non stringer, ma rallarga ogni vigore.”
Purgatorio, Canto 9, v. 46-48.
“‘I have a belief of my own, and it comforts me.’

“‘What is that?’ said Will....

“‘That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don’t quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil—widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower.’”—Middlemarch, Book iv.




The following short sketches of the lives of some of the eminent women of our times were written for The Mothers’ Companion, and are now republished by the kind permission of the proprietors and publishers, Messrs. Partridge.

They were suggested by the fact that nearly all the best contributions of women to literature have been made during the last hundred years, and simultaneously with this remarkable development of literary activity among women, there has been an equally remarkable activity in spheres of work held to be peculiarly feminine. So far, therefore, from greater freedom and better education encouraging women to neglect womanly work, it has caused them to apply themselves to it more systematically and more successfully. The names of Elizabeth Fry, Mary Carpenter, Sarah Martin, Agnes Jones, Florence Nightingale, and Sister Dora are a proof of this. I believe that we owe their achievements to the same impulse which in another kind of excellence has given us Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and Elizabeth Browning.

The sketches were intended chiefly for working women and young people; it was hoped it would be an encouragement to them to be reminded how much good work had been done in various ways by women.

An apology should, perhaps, be offered to the reader for the want of arrangement in the sequence of these sketches. As they appeared month by month, in 1887 and 1888, the incidents of the day sometimes suggested the subject. Thus the papers on Queen Victoria and on Queen Louisa of Prussia were suggested by the celebration of the Jubilee in June 1887, and by the universal grief felt for the death of Queen Louisa’s son and grandson in 1888. As the incidents mentioned in some sketches are sometimes referred to in those that follow, it has been thought best not to alter the sequence in which they originally appeared. The authorities relied on are quoted in each paper.

London, 1889.



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