For my last post of #ABrontëADay, I wanted to share some images of Maria Branwell. I feel like she has been airbrushed out of so much of the Brontë family story, dismissed as having died when the children were too little to remember her. While it may be true that their memories of her were few, her very absence was significant. This month I read Sharon Wright’s excellent biography of Maria Branwell and it made the late Mrs Brontë come alive to me in a way that she never had before.
Maria Brontë was a woman who read novels, had a guilty pleasure for dramatic love stories, had a lively a sense of humour, who could take charge, who knew how to schmooze when she needed to, a woman who fell passionately in love – I just felt so desperately sad for her that she was reduced to barely a footnote within the story. The loss of Maria cast a huge shadow over the family. The loss of her legacy hampered them financially. Aunt Branwell cared for the children from duty rather than desire for motherhood. It was from the lack of a mother that the girls were sent to Cowan Bridge. And all three of the Brontë sisters’ novels feature motherless heroines. Jane, Caroline, Cathy, Cathy and Helen. All of them girls finding their way alone.
But more than that, Maria lived twenty-nine whole years of her life before she ever clapped eyes on Patrick Brontë and I feel like she deserves to be remembered for far more than just her identity as someone’s mother. While Patrick Brontë’s achievements are striking, he definitely married ‘up’. I really recommend reading The Mother of the Brontës to find out more about her life. In dismissing her importance, we lose a hugely significant aspect of the Brontë story.