Mary Taylor is a Strong-Minded West Yorkshire woman at the Red House Museum in Gomersal

By Ben Miller | 07 March 2011
A faded monochrome photo of a group of smartly-dressed people standing on a mountain in the 19th century
Mary Taylor (far left) heading up a mountain with friends in Switzerland in the 1870s© Red House Museum
Exhibition: Mary Taylor: Strong-Minded Woman, Red House Museum, Gomersal, until July 3 2011

“It is easy to see why Mary Taylor was so admired,” points out Museum Officer Helga Hughes.

“Even by today’s standards, hers was an adventurous life. For a woman to do it in the 1800s was extraordinary.”

Born into a woollen merchant’s family at the West Yorkshire House where this special exhibition for International Women’s Day will be held, Taylor was a businesswoman, author of three books, German teacher, occasional leader of climbing expeditions in Switzerland and fervent feminist.

Her intelligence and ambition allowed her to supersede the restrictions and inequalities imposed upon women during the 19th century, and she took little notice of the hostility towards her teaching boys in Germany to earn her living at the start of her career.

In 1845 she made a four-month sea voyage to New Zealand, where she established a successful shop before returning to England in 1860. Her homecoming marked the start of her literary career, writing a number of notable socio-political works.

The exhibition has already enjoyed a well-received cross-Pacific tour to the Petone Settlers’ Museum in Wellington. It has been co-curated by Red House and Joan Bellamy, the founder of the Women in the Humanities research group at the Open University and author of Taylor’s 2002 biography, More Precious Than Rubies.

  • Open 11am-5pm Monday-Friday (12pm-5pm Saturday and Sunday). Admission free.
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