At the start of June, the SLG was joined by journalist and writer Ian Dunt, who spoke about Harriet and John: that is, Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill. Theirs was a passionate and complicated romance – Harriet was married to another for all but the last decade of her life and very conscious of what “the world” would say and do if the affair with Mill become (too) widely known-and an intellectual partnership that, in Ian’s words, made modern liberalism. Scouring the often scant sources for clues, Ian brings to life a woman who contributed so much to Mill´s works that friends wondered who had written what. Much remains unknown. About Harriet´s childhood and her education there is nothing. From a decade spent travelling together around Europe we know little – they had no need to write to each other (one wonders where they were and who they saw during the revolutions of 1848).
As to why Harriet was hidden from history (save when she has been disparaged by critics) Ian offered a thought-provoking idea: Harriet suffered from what he called the Yoko Ono syndrome: that wives of powerful men who have their own achievements are vilified to protect the man’s status and legacy. The SLG will return to the theme of women hidden from history this Thursday 8th July https://www.some.ox.ac.uk/…/slg-ann-oakley-on-the…/ when Professor Ann Oakley will talk about her book Forgotten Wives.
Harriet Taylor has, however, found her champion in Ian Dunt. You can watch his talk here: https://youtu.be/QdthHf_qys8