Harriet Hardy Taylor Mill (1807-1858)
One of the most overlooked philosophers of her time, Harriet Hardy Taylor Mill is perhaps one of the most influential writers of her time which contributed greatly to the utilitarian movement. Harriet and her second husband, John Stuart Mill significantly contributed to the social, economic, and political issues of the early part of the ninetieth century by their writings. Harriet, who had moved into increasingly radical circles at her utilitarian church, focused her writing on women’s rights, sexuality, and politics. After her marriage to John Taylor ended in 1833, Harriet met her future husband, philosopher John Stuart Mill. Among Harriet's many accomplishments include her essay and book on women's suffrage movement this includes her works, Enfranchisement of Women and "The Subjection of Women." One of the prevailing controversies during her life was her relationship with John Mill. The main controversy surrounds the theory that Harriet and Mill had sexual relations before they became married. It is theorized that Harriet contracted syphilis from her former husband because she became sick at the time of her second marriage.
Harriet was fiercely independent who wrote about issues before her time. One of her books that she was working on when she died in France in November of 1858 was titled "The Subjection of Women." The women’s rights movement would not start until the early 1920’s but Harriet’s writings seem to supercede to a time when no one else was thinking about the issue. Harriet may have been interested in Mill because he was the first person who treated her as an intellectual equal. Their relationship was so strong, that Mill contributes much of his writing to her. John Mill and Harriet Taylor were married two years after the death of her former husband. Among some of Harriet’s many accomplishments were her political advances for women. Being an original member of the Kensington Society, Harriet was instrumental in the passing of 1870 Education Act, which allowed her to serve as a member of the London School Board.
During Harriet’s first marriage, to John Taylor, Harriet bore a total of three children. It was after her last child that she started to show signs of sickness. John Taylor would later die of cancer in 1849. Her illnesses would travel with Harriet throughout her life. Born on October 8, 1807 Harriet would be crippled from the affects of syphilis. Later in life she would contract and die from tuberculosis in France.
Perhaps the most important person during the early part of the nineteenth century, Harriet did much to shape the future of the women’s suffrage movement. Among her most famous and important essays was published in 1851 called, Enfranchisement of Women. This important piece of literature was instrumental in the early days of women’s suffrage movement because for the first time her writings were backed by men in key political positions. Within one year it was being published both in Europe and in America. Much of what Mill and Harriet wrote has been combined together over the last century. Harriet’s work was vitally important to the early suffrage movement. In life, Harriet was held back only by her poor health, and the sexual controversy surrounding her second husband.
Craig, Edward and Floridi, Luciano. Routledge
Encyclopedia of Philosophy. England: T. J. International and
In dictionary format, this work focuses on two primary elements of Harriet Mill’s life. The two elements which are focused on is the relationship she had with her second and the literature the two came up with. A strong emphasis is placed on her intelligence and her contribution to the world of philosophy. This is a good resource for quick, like facts about her life. Although this is technically considered an encyclopedia, the scope of the work is narrow enough to consider this a legitimate and valuable source of work. A sizable section of the book is dedicated to the life and work of Harriet.
Dalton. “Harriet (Hardy) Taylor Mill.”
Virginia Tech English Department <http://athena.english.vt.edu/~jmooney/3044biosh-o/millharriet.html>
(18 December 21 2005).
This website provides a good overview of Harriet’s life. Much attention is given to the basic biographical facts on her life in a short comprehensive essay. In addition to this the site makes a point mentioning the main controversy surrounding her life. Including such ideas that she never consummated her second marriage, and that she might have had syphilis.
Jacobs, Jo Ellen. “The Lot of Gifted Ladies is
Hard: A Study of Harriet Mill Criticism.” Hypatia Vol 9, no.
3 (Summer 1994):133-162.
This journal article is an in-depth analysis on how society helped shape Harriet’s philosophical writings. The goal of this article is to answer the question of why Harriet Mill appears in the history of philosophy as she has? Reflecting on sexism, philosophy, and her personality this is a very interesting and informative article. Basic knowledge of who Harriet Mill is required in order to fully appreciate this article.
Jacobs, Jo Ellen. The Voice of Harriet Taylor
Mill. Bloomington, IN: Indian University Press, 2002.
This very comprehensive and in-depth biography of Harriet Mill gives a full account of her life and her contribution to the world of philosophy. The aim of this book is to present a critical study of the character and contributions of this person. This is a good source because it attempts to understand the decision making process which Harriet went through in her writings. This is a great source of information for those who have no prior knowledge of who or what this person accomplished.
Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey and Harvey, Joy Dorothy, ed.
The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from
Ancient Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century. New York, New York:
This informative book provides basic biographical analysis on women in science throughout history. About a page and a half are dedicated to her most notable achievements throughout her life. Much focus in this biography is concentrated on how she inspired her husband to pass key legislation through the government, and how their relationship prospered after her failed first marriage. In addition to this, Ogilvie and Harvey’s work lists some of her most important manuscripts.
Roberts, Andrew. “John Stuart Mill and Harriet
Taylor Mill on Freedom and Self Development.” Middlesex University, 21
This informative site provides great insight into how Harriet and her husband worked together on projects. Portions of her books provide insight into what Harriet was trying to convey to people. There is also a brief biographical overview of her life. The purpose of this site is to give the reader a chronological examination of John Stuart Mill and Harriet Mill after 1830.
Sunshine for Women. “Harriet Taylor Mill.” Sunshine for
One of the more comprehensive websites on this particular person, this site include not only extensive biographical background on Harriet Mill, but it also offers the reader her philosophical views. In addition to this, this webpage is fully documented, providing this site with much authenticity and scholarly legitimacy. The documentation is also helpful because the sources used in this document can be looked up and verified.
Waithe, Mary Ellen, ed. A History of Women
Philosophers. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
This dictionary type book lists the achievements and contributions of many important women philosophers throughout history. The section dedicated to Harriet Mill emphases her views on women’s rights. In addition to this, the passage makes a note that these feeling were not shared by those of her husband. This was a good resource because its focus is narrow, and it provides insight into what her philosophical views were.
Weinburg, Lindsay. “Harriet Taylor Mill.” Lindsay
(18 December 2005).
A very informative website, the author of this site broke down Harriet Mill’s life into four main parts. Mill’s biography, quotes, philosophical views and her profession are all examined in this work. With easy navigation it is easy to access a variety of links which links this page to other sites devoted to the biography of Harriet Mill. Although this site is informative for biographical information, it was done by a college student for a project.
Original Written by Andrew Wakefield, 2005
Last Revision: 18 December 2005
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