Pioneer Women of the 17th Century

Today is International Women’s Day, so it’s the perfect time to showcase two of the 17th century’s most memorable female pioneers.

Portraitist Mary Beale (1633-1699) was not only a talented painter, but she turned her skills into a successful business, becoming the family bread-winner and earning the praise of Richard Gibson and Sir Peter Lely.  She also turned her hand to writing, penning a manuscript called “Discourse on Friendship”,  four poems, and even an instructional guide to painting apricots.

Beale, Mary, 1633-1699; Self Portrait
Self-Portrait, c.1675. © St Edmundsbury Museum

Margaret Lucas (1623?-1674) was the sister of Civil War royalist officers John and Charles Lucas of Colchester, and married William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle. An intelligent and inquisitive woman, Margaret is today known as a poet, a philosopher, essayist, and playwright, turning her mind to topics such as gender, power, the sciences and romantic fiction. She is believed to be one of the first writers in what we would now call the science-fiction genre.

1665-margaret-duchess-of_med
Margaret Cavendish (nee Lucas), c.1665, by Sir Peter Lely

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3 Comments

  1. Great post! And TIL: I didn’t know the Duchess’s own surname, or that Charles Lucas was her brother.

    Good that Mary Beale was able to use her gift and skills – all too rare for women then.

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  2. The Lucases were a fascinating family! I know there are biogs on Charles and Margaret separately, but I’d love to see one on the whole family together.

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    • I went chasing your Charles Lucas tag after reading this post, to see about the which-portrait-is-him question. I am shallow enough that I was glad to see, years back, the handsome young man in the NPG one called called Col. Neville, because he survived the war …

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