Harriet Martineau (1802–1876) was a social theorist who is often credited as being the first female sociologist. In Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing, Shelagh Stephenson depicts the great writer in a period of convalescence, living as an invalid by the sea in Tynemouth.
Shut off from her usual society, Harriet is visited by women of the locale; Impie, a recent widow who is using her new-found marital freedom to paint murals on the ceilings of her family home; Beulah, the daughter of a woman who’d been sold into slavery and escaped; and Jane, the housemaid, whose unfeted and unexpected gifts lift her out of domestic servitude and could help Harriet out of illness.
Harriet Martineau is a play about female self-reliance in a time of patriarchal dominance. Written by Shelagh Stephenson, it premiered at Live Theatre, Newcastle, in winter 2016.