THIS month marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the renowned feminist and businesswoman Mary Taylor.
Highly intelligent and ambitious, Mary Taylor is defined as a woman who broke new ground at a time when a woman's place was deemed to be very much in the home.
While other women were content to keep a lovely home and look after their men folk, Mary had other ideas. Far from her wings being clipped, she yearned to travel - and did - to countries as part of her educational journey and sharing her experiences with one of her dearest friends - the famous literary sibling, Charlotte Bronte.
The pair would often meet at Mary's home - Red House. The imposing red-brick abode in Oxford Road, Gomersal, was latterly a museum, closed to the public in December - a victim of budget cuts.
While travelling they still kept in touch through written correspondence - a legacy many historians have no doubt poured over during painstaking research to find out more about these famous friends.
Born on February 26 1817, this year marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Taylor's birth. Last year a range of events were planned and celebrated the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth.
Information from the Bronte Society gives an insight into the life and characteristics of Mary Taylor; the fact that she was an early feminist of her time, somewhat rebelling against the role women were supposed to fulfil.
The eldest daughter and fourth child of Anne and Joshua, a cloth merchant and banker well known in Gomersal and the wider Spen Valley, Mary was one of six siblings.
Local author, Joan Bellamy, dedicated a decade of research to document Mary's life in the biography 'Mary Taylor More Precious than Rubies' published in 2002.
In addition, Joan, a former Dean of the Arts Faculty at the Open University, also published many articles about Mary. She is also co-editor of a collection of essays, Women, Scholarship and Criticism 1790-1900 (Manchester University Press).
Mary's early education began at Roe Head School in Birstall. She joined there in 1831 and was introduced to Charlotte Bronte, then a teenager. The literary sibling would become one of her close circle of friends.
In comparison to Charlotte's other great friend, Ellen Nussey, a fellow scholar at Roe Head, Mary was politically liberal and outspoken in her views, while Ellen was said to have been socially and politically conservative and appeared feminine and ladylike.
Following Charlotte's death - which Mary only discovered about in the late summer of 1855, Mary was reluctant to talk about her friend, steering away from those who wanted to find out about Charlotte.
The fact that Ellen was only too happy to share her memories wasn't something Mary agreed with and their differing views was said to have caused a rift between the pals.
There is an impression that all three were strong-minded women. Charlotte certainly had a determined will, a quality she appeared to have shared with her friend, Mary who she described as having 'more energy and power in her nature than any 10 men you can pick out.'
Mary rebelled against the expected bounds of Victorian femininity having no desire to keep house for one of her brothers, marry for money or become a governess.
She felt strongly that women should educate themselves and see something of the world. It was Mary's encouragment that led Charlotte to travel, to Brussels to improve her French, and after spending time at a finishing school in Brussels, she travelled to Germany to teach English.
Mary shocked her contemporaries by taking both male and female pupils. She set up house alone in Germany, where she received piano lessons from Frederick Halle, whose son would go on to found the Halle Orchestra.
In September 1844 Mary made the decision to emigrate to New Zealand - her youngest brother had made the journey some years previously and Mary hoped to find an outlet for her energies that Victorian England couldn't provide.
Described as 'uniquely independent' of her era, Mary was highly intelligent, well educated and ambitious. She continued to correspond with Charlotte throughout this time and was one of the few people Charlotte confided her authorship of Jane Eyre.
Charlotte also appears to have drawn inspiration from her friend in her writing. The character of Rose Yorke in Charlotte's novel, Shirley, is widely believed to be based partially on Mary. The Yorkes are believed to have been based on the Taylor family.
Indeed, Red House, Mary's family abode, was said to have inspired 'Briarmains,' the house in Charlotte's novel 'Shirley.' Charlotte would often spend time there visiting her friend which is why the area of Gomersal and the wider Spen Valley, and the house, have such strong Bronte connections.
During their correspondence, Mary and Charlotte are said to have engaged in 'vociferous political debate.' The legacy of their friendship lives on both in the books that have been written and the places pertaining to their lives such as Red House and the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth where, on Sunday February 26 Lauren Livesey, the Bronte Parsonage's outreach and events officers, will deliver a talk about Mary Taylor at 2pm.
There is a lot to be learned about Mary Taylor; how in middle age she travelled to Europe, despite often encountering disapproval from groups of men who believed it was inappropriate for women to travel alone.
Around that time the women's movement was gaining momentum. Mary began contributing articles to the Victoria Magazine which put forward her suffragist values and attacked a culture that failed to allow women the independence to earn their own living.
Although Mary didn't attract the same global attention as her literary pal, she did publish a collection of articles, The First Duty of Women. 'Miss Miles' her self-published and only novel was published in 1890.
The talk about Mary Taylor at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, on Sunday February 26, is free.
On the same day in Mary's home village of Gomersal, flowers will be laid on her grave at St Mary's Church in Spen Lane, following the 9.30am service.
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