About this image
A Royalist during English Civil War, Margaret Lucas was Maid of Honour to Queen Henrietta Maria from 1643 to 1645. While in exile with the Queen, Lucas met and married William Cavendish (see image DCHQ200234), a leader of the Royalist forces and thirty years her senior.
After the Restoration, the Cavendishes, now the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle, retired from court life. Happily married by all accounts to an emotionally and financially supportive husband, Newcastle nonetheless chafed at the educational and professional opportunities available to women and railed against the unequal power in domestic relations. Newcastle wrote a total of fourteen works on a broad selection of topics: scientific and philosophical treatises, science fiction, a biography, an autobiography, essays, letters, poetry, 'orations', and several plays, including one that featured a lesbian relationship, The Convent of Pleasure.
The first aristocratic woman in England to defend the female sex, Newcastle continually reminded her readers that she is a woman and that she writes about issues from a woman's perspective. George Ballard in his Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Who Have Been Celebrated for Their Writing or Skill in the Learned Languaged, Arts, and Sceince lists her published and unpublished works and gives a short description of each work. Newcastle wrote about a wide variety of feminist topics even though her writings were at times conflicting or critical of women. Without earlier feminist theorists to use as a guide and lacking any contemporary feminists with whom to discuss her theories, Newcastle's writings were often confused, contradictory, or faltering. Her isolation from others of similar thought only sharpened her understanding of the limitations imposed upon women by their exclusion the community of scholars. Treated by her contemporaries as an eccentric and ridiculed by her opponents, Newcastle continued to pioneer new directions in feminist thought and analysis. She wrote on many topics of concern to contemporary feminists: 'their poor education, exclusion from public institutions, political subordination within the home, physiological dictates of childbirth, and society's pervasive vision of women as incompetent, irresponsible, unintelligent, and irrational'.
Introducing the highest social and economic classes to feminist thought and women's concerns, Newcastle set the stage for later feminists including Bathsua Makin, Aphra Behn, Mary Astell, and the 18th century Bluestockings. (information from www.pinn.net)
This image is one of a collection by the famous local antiquarian, Thomas Bateman, of Middleton by Youlgreave. (1821-1861). Bateman organized his collection by inserting them into a 4 volume copy of Lysons Magna Britannia, Derbyshire, creating a fascinating and unique illustrated record of the county. The purchase of the collection for Derbyshire Libraries was made possible by the generous bequest of Miss Frances Webb of Whaley Bridge, well known local historian, who died in December 2006.