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A Birthplace of Feminism: Campaign Funding to Preserve Brontë Family Home for Future Generations

Within the city of Bradford, West Yorkshire, lies one of the most historically significant buildings in literary history. In a small, quaint terraced house situated in the village of Thornton, three of the most famous authors of the Victorian period were born. 


Home to Maria and Patrick Brontë, the Brontë sisters—Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—along with their unruly brother, Branwell, were born in 72-74 Market Street before moving to the village of Haworth, where they spent the majority of their short lives before succumbing to deadly illnesses. 


What now stands as a Grade II* listed building has recently been secured by campaigners in an effort to preserve the birthplace of these three literary geniuses. Previously, the house had been in private ownership before it went on sale last year. According to an article posted by The Guardian in November of last year, “campaigners raised £300,000 from donations and grants, including a major one from the Bradford City of Culture 2025 fund.” 


After the campaign received a successful response from the local community and government donations, including a substantial grant from the Bradford City of Culture 2025 fund, the building is expected to undergo restoration work throughout the course of 2024 so that it can finally be open to public viewing. 


The proposed restoration and refurbishment project of 72-74 Market Street will create spaces for literary workshops, school visits, a café, and the opportunity for people to stay overnight in one of its bedrooms. 


The crowdfunding campaign led by BBC journalist and broadcaster Christa Ackroyd was created with the goal of preserving the rich cultural legacy of the three sisters so that their literary influence continues to inspire generations to come. Once open to the public, the Brontë birthplace will not only aid in the economic growth of the city but will also provide an educational hotspot, where visitors are actively encouraged to engage with the cultural and historical legacy left by the Brontë’s and their remarkable imaginations. 


Preserving “this wonderful piece of the Brontë jigsaw” is at the heart of the Brontë Birthplace Campaign, a campaign that endeavours to transform the Thornton building into a bustling tourist attraction much like Haworth Parsonage, also located in West Yorkshire. 


The Brontë Parsonage Museum, situated on the edge of rustic open country in the small village of Haworth, was once home to the Brontë family between 1820 and 1861 after they moved from their small terrace in Thornton. The father of the family, Patrick Brontë, served the village of Haworth when he was appointed as Perpetual Curate in 1820. Afflicted by a life of tragedy, Patrick Brontë sadly outlived all six of his children (Maria and Elizabeth died in childhood from tuberculosis).


So, what made the Brontë family so significant for their time? Most importantly, why do the Brontë sisters continue to inspire those in the twenty first century? 


Perhaps the most significant feature of the Brontë sisters and their upbringing was their education. Regarded as unconventional by nineteenth century standards, Patrick Brontë became solely responsible for the education of his daughters, equipping them with the tools that would eventually make them three of the most successful writers in literary history. 


From an extremely early age, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were avid readers and writers with a vivid imagination. Together in their early childhood, all three sisters fictionalised an imaginative and intricate fantasy of characters and places, writings that signaled the future literary success these sisters would achieve in their later novels. 


Originally published under male pseudonyms (Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell), Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë penned some of the most revered novels in English literature. In her most well-known novel, Jane Eyre (1847), Charlotte Brontë transgresses Victorian female boundaries by creating one of the most famous heroines in literary history. Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) shocked its contemporary readers, receiving much critical backlash for its daring content. Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) offers a radical critique of marriage and the restrictions it imposes on women. 


Ultimately, through their writings, this set of prodigious Yorkshire sisters collectively deal with issues surrounding womanhood in the Victorian period. In particular, issues of gender, restrictions on marriage, and representations of the struggle to discover female identity are themes that permeate the novels of these three sisters. 


Although written over one hundred and fifty years ago, the issues that these authors discuss in their works are still familiar to the female experience in the twenty first century. Feminism has undoubtedly progressed since the Brontë sisters were writing; however, women still continue to fight for their basic rights in a world where female limitations are still very much a part of our experiences. 


This is why it is so important to preserve Thornton – a birthplace of feminism – as it encourages us to engage with the works of three women who never lost sight of their ambitions and who continue to be an inspiration for young women in society today.


 


Photo Credit: The National Portrait Gallery (Website)


 


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Tags: #Feminism #Literature #Brontësisters #Thornton



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