A Lady of Cotton : Hannah Greg, Mistress of Quarry Bank Mill Paperback
by David Sekers
In 1789 Hannah Lightbody, a well-educated and intelligent young woman of means, married Samuel Greg and found herself at the centre of his cotton empire in the industrial heart of England.
It was a man's world, in which women like Hannah were barred from politics, had few rights and were expected to be little more than good, dutiful wives.
Struggling to apply herself to household management, Hannah instead turned her attention to the well-being of the cotton mill workers under her husband's control.
Over the next four decades she fought to improve the education, health and welfare of cotton girls and pauper apprentices at the mill.
Her legacy helped turn the north-west into the pioneering heart of reform in Britain.
Here, the story of Hannah's remarkable life is told for the first time.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 280 pages, 8 black & white plates, 10 black & white illustrations
- Publisher: The History Press Ltd
- Publication Date: 12/03/2013
- Category: Biography: historical, political & military
- ISBN: 9780752490083
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Review by AdonisGuilfoyle
I must confess to choosing this biography for a less than academic reason - Hannah Greg, or at least the enthusiastic blurb on Amazon, could have been the inspiration for Margaret Hale in Elizabeth Gaskell's novel <i>North and South</i>. Though born in Liverpool, not the leafy south, and a Unitarian who would have made Margaret's hair curl, Hannah married mill owner Samuel Greg and went on to help him run Quarry Bank Mill, and Styal village for his workers, in Wilmslow, Cheshire.The only snag is that I'm not sure there is enough material available to fill 280 pages, including cumbersome footnotes at the end of every chapter, on Hannah's life. David Sekers' biography, although engaging, is filled with assumptions about Mrs Greg - there is no supporting evidence, but ... Hannah is <i>likely</i> to have contributed to the soup kitchens established in central Manchester; Hannah <i>probably</i> knew Wollstonecraft's later writing, but it is not known whether or not they met; there is no evidence that any of these men <i>might have</i> found Hannah's mind, personality or presence attractive. And so on. What is shown is that Hannah's liberal, educated and cultured upbringing was mostly stamped out by her marriage to Samuel, and she fell into the proto-Victorian trap of bearing thirteen children, taking on the extended domestic duties of looking after the physical, moral and basic educational needs of her husband's workers, and learning to withhold her opinions on women ('Were the other advantages equal, superiority would frequently be found on the side of women') and slavery (because her husband owned a plantation). Ah, well. She tried. Don't mistake me, I admire Hannah, I just think that Mrs Gaskell made more of her life by writing a fictional account of a genteel, compassionate and forthright young woman who marries a mill owner.