Sociologist in Focus: Harriet Martineau
Martineau was born in Norwich, England in the early 19th century to progressive parents who believed that women deserved as good a quality education as men. Her interest in politics and economics led her to become a journalist and she eventually moved to London following the death of her father. During the mid-1830s she travelled around the USA recording the development of the relatively young country (the declaration of Independence was signed in 1776).
Upon returning to England, she published a critique of the USA highlighting her experiences of her time spent there. Her work at this point primarily focused upon the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of women. She criticised the Declaration of Independence by stating that the principle of equal rights focused solely on men and ignored the rights of women.
Martineau campaigned for many years for the rights of women and described how women’s liberty is restricted in both public life and in the domestic sphere. Something that modern feminists would argue still exists.