As this is International Women’s Month, I thought I’d share more about the treasure trove of women writers I found while researching The Factory Girl and the Fey (historical fantasy, October 2021). I’ve already written about Ellen Johnston and other Scottish poets whose work I uncovered, but this time I thought I’d share about Fanny Trollope.
I found Fanny’s books when looking for work that accurately depicted life in the mills in the 19th century. Fanny wrote Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy, a searing account that may have resulted in child labor reforms that came after its release.
Fanny was a popular writer in her day, though her sons’ fame eclipsed hers over time. She didn’t start writing seriously until age 50, when family debts required she produce as many books as possible in a short time.
Despite her late start, she wrote 40 books along with countless articles and poems, some of them controversial. Fanny didn’t shy away from social commentary. In addition to Michael Armstrong, it has been suggested that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was influenced by Trollope’s Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, an anti-slavery novel released in 1836. She also took on the Church of England and the corruption she saw.
The knock on Fanny’s writing was that it was often rushed, but this was largely due to her need for money. Also, though gregarious and welcomed into salons to discuss her work and ideas, those around her feared showing up in one of her books–and this happened rather often!
A friend and colleague of Dickens, Browning, Barrett, and more, Fanny Trollope is one of the forgotten writers of the era. Her courage, work ethic, strength, and skill deserve to be admired and remembered.
More on Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-life-and-adventures-of-michael-armstrong-the-factory-boy#