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Elizabeth Gaskell: a woman for our time

Elizabeth Gaskell House, Manchester

What defines someone as being modern? The way they dress? The way they think? The circles they move in? Their achievements?

If you heard about a woman who brings up her daughters to know about the environment, who supports local causes, keeps animals to promote sustainability and hasn't been averse to helping out women who find themselves in trouble and facing prostitution, you might describe her a modern woman.

Not only that, she's a best-selling author of six novels and other works. But it might surprise you to know that this modern woman is Elizabeth Gaskell, and she died in 1865.

The author of 'Cranford' was also the writer of 'Mary Barton', a novel in which women featured as strong central characters, including a sympathetic prostitute, and 'Ruth' which caused huge controversy, dealing as it did with the the inequalities of men and women. In 1853.

Such was the high esteem and legacy of Elizabeth Gaskell that, 100 years ago in 1914, there was an attempt to turn her home, 84 Plymouth Grove, into a museum. The attempt failed, the house fell from the hands of the family and became derelict.

This year, following years of work, Elizabeth Gaskell House opened to the public and the dream to turn it into both a museum and fitting memorial to a woman who was ahead of her time, is at last realised.

‘We've got a certainly is a beauty...I must try and make the house give as much pleasure to others as I can.’ So said Elizabeth Gaskell in a letter to her friend Eliza Fox in 1850. Over 150 years on, you can see where and how this modern woman lived for yourself.

Find out more about Elizabeth Gaskell's House.