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Tag Archives: Regency heroines


March is Women’s History Month (in the U.S.). It’s also National Reading Month and National Nutrition Month. I thought of writing about how these can be related. (Reading feeds our minds, and how about reading about women? And writing about them, of course.) But instead, let’s talk about real heroines of the Regency period. (See giveaway details at the end.)

Wikipedia lists fifty-three “Women of the Regency Era” who have their own pages. They range from the obvious (Jane Austen) to the notorious (Harriet Wilson) to the questionable (Princess Caraboo). But rather than list them here, or try to even scratch the surface of this topic, I’d like to invite you to chime in with your favorite candidates. Who were the real heroines of our period?

I would hold that merely existing in the period isn’t enough. What qualities do we expect heroines to demonstrate? Courage, for one, I’m sure you’d agree –no matter what time period she lives in. Certainly in real Regency heroines, courage was necessary to pursue any course outside of normal expectations. Tenacity is another one I am sure was needed just to live any kind of satisfying life as a woman in the early 19th century. What else? And who comes to your mind?

Let’s think about the various ways in which women could be “significant”. Which of these women contributed to the betterment of society, or added to the knowledge or literacy of our world? Or gave their support (sometimes invisibly) to men who accomplished significant things? What other ways did they make impacts?

And also, I would make a distinction between fame and significance. Certainly Lady Emma Hamilton’s beauty and choices made her infamous in her own time and famous even today. Do you think she made the best life out of the limited choices she had? Does she belong on the list of significant women?

Mary Wollstonecraft

I’ll start, offering Mary Wollstonecraft. While she lived almost too early to be included, she was only 38 when she died in childbirth, producing the daughter who would become Mary Shelley. That was in 1797, five years after she published her Rights of Women. Can you imagine what her life might have been like, or what controversies she might have stirred up, if she had lived on into the full Regency era? And I would say she gave us a daughter who also became a significant woman of the Regency.

Perhaps I’ll print the names on Wikipedia’s list a bit later this month, after we’ve had some time to discuss this topic. I wonder how many of them we can come up with on our own, and how many we’ll feel can be classified as heroines?

I’ll even offer this: a free ebook to one commenter, either chosen randomly or if one person stands out as offering the most interesting response, by the end of March. Offering a book feels right during National Reading Month!!

I have been doing a bit of thinking on this topic. I trolled the internet to see what others wrote, but didn’t find anything that delineated the types in the way I was thinking of them.

We see certain Regency heroines over and over and marvel at how authors can make them fresh and new.

Here’s what I came up with:

Tried and true from Jane Eyre to Megan’s upcoming The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior. The governess is often a genteel young woman who has fallen on hard times and has to accept employment that basically robs her of any social status at all. She is neither servant nor noble. It is the hero who comes to her rescue and frees her from her dismal fate. In a way she is a Cinderella figure. Just thought of that this moment.
My Born To Scandal is a governess story and my homage to Jane Eyre.

The Debutante.
The classic traditional Regency heroine. I used to love to read the Signets and Zebras about the young woman making her come-out and attending Almack’s for the first time. Her task, of course, was to make a good match and often it was not the man with the high title who ultimately won her heart.

The Bluestocking.
A bookish heroine who is more interested in her field of expertise than in the marriage mart. I have yet to write one of these heroines, because my imagination has yet to go in that direction.

The Fallen Woman.
I’d place courtesan heroines or heroines ruined by scandal in this category. She is a woman who, perhaps, once had a fine reputation but has lost it and this can either free her to take charge of her life or trap her in a worse situation. My The Mysterious Miss M fits this description, as does the heroine in Scandalizing the Ton. I’m returning to this type of heroine in A Lady of Notoriety, due out in paperback June 17.

The Feisty Heroine.
I think of this heroine as the one who defies all convention and protests to want things that, in my mind, only a modern woman would expect. You can tell this is not one of my favorites, but I do think that readers can love this heroine if she is done well. About the closest I’ve come, I think, is in Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress.

91cbc8f1c531b62592f78425641434d414f4141The Hard Times Heroine.
This would be the heroine who needs to marry well in order to save her family or to escape something worse. My Wagering Widow was one, and looking through my books list I’ve written different versions of this heroine several times – . One of my favorite old Regencies had one of these heroines, The Last Frost Fair by Jo Freeman.

The Commoner.
This heroine is not a typical choice for a Regency Historical. She is not from the aristocracy. She is a commoner, like my French heroine in Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy or Innocence and Impropriety.

You might also be interested in Mary Balogh’s discussion of Regency heroines.

And, for fun, here is a Regency Heroine Quiz to discover which type you are.

Do you have other Regency Heroine types to add? Let me know!

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