NOVEMBER 26: Mathilde Blind (1841-1896)


Renowned writer and leader
of the New Women, Mathilde Blind, passed away on this day in 1896. She is most
well-known for her pioneering feminist literature such as the poem The Ascent of Man, written as a woman’s response to
Darwin’s theory of evolution.


Mathilde Blind photographed circa 1870 (x).

Mathilde Blind was born on March 21,
1841 in Mannheim, Germany. Her father was a banker named Jacob Abraham Cohen and
she was his oldest child of three. After her father died in 1848 and her mother
remarried the famous political writer Karl Blind, Mathilde and her brothers
changed their surname to Blind. The family moved to London around this
same time and Mathilde began attending St. John’s Wood Ladies’ Institute.
Throughout her adolescence, her mother and stepfather kept the company of leftist
revolutionaries such as Karl Marx and Louis Blanc, and therefore, Mathilde herself
began to develop a radical political perspective from an early age.

At the beginning of her literary
career, Mathilde used a male pseudonym, but she abandoned it for her real name
in the 1870s. It was this act that launched her to feminist icon status and made
her one of the premier figures of London’s bohemian literary scene. She wrote
over 15 texts throughout her lifetime; her only fiction novel was a romance titled Tarantula that saw little success, while her masterwork is largely considered to be the 1889
poem The Ascent of Man. The majority of Mathilde’s work dealt
with the Victorian gender system and took on a feminist slant. 

She never
married during her lifetime and often publicly criticized the institution of
marriage. It is common belief that Mathilde was a lesbian due to her
prioritization of women in her life and her association with many lesbian figures
of her day such as Olive Schreiner and Violet Paget. She lived with the famous painter Ford Madox
Brown for over 20 years until his wife Emma’s death and it is often believed
that Mathilde and Emma were romantically involved. Mathilde Blind would eventually pass away on
November 26, 1896 from uterine cancer. Her property was given to Newnham
College, Cambridge per her request and she left the English literary world with
a lifetime of progressive writings and political work.