Branwell Bronte's  painting of his three sisters, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte (L-R). He painted himself out of the portrait.ë

Branwell Bronte’s painting of his three sisters, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte (L-R). He painted himself out of the portrait.√´

The three Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne captivated, shocked and inspired literary audiences of their time through their controversial novels Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Originally published under the male pseudonyms; Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, all three of these texts, now revered amongst the classics of English literature, explored outrageously complex and contemporary themes. All three books were written by the sisters during their early twenties and were inspired by real lived experiences and a passion for literary success.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte has been named by scholars as the first overtly feminist novel which explored themes of domestic violence, women’s rights, a critique of marriage and the promotion of single motherhood. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre also explored similar themes such as the desire for female autonomy, an exploration of the complexities of the social class system and the desire to find romantic love in conjunction with a sense of belonging and value. Emily’s work, Wuthering Heights, encapsulated some of the above with the even riskier theme of female sexual desire! The works of all three sisters was met with hostility from all levels of society; from professional writers to lay people. One commenter even believed that such works could simply not have been written by women, as women were not capable of having such intense opinions on these topics!

What is most¬†fascinating about all three of these women is how the themes that they discussed are so relatable to women and girls living today. In nineteenth century England where women‚Äôs and girls’ rights were severely limited by today‚Äôs standards, through their narratives, the Bronte sisters bravely pushed the boundaries of what society could legitimately expect of women and girls. Even in their juvenile writing, the girls explored themes that can be described as ‚Äòahead of their time‚Äô. By discussing topics which were largely ignored by wider society, but were being experienced by women and girls everywhere on the ground, the sisters‚Äô bravery, commitment and determination for literary success helped challenge the prevailing feminine discourses of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

-Chloe Simm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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