Harriet Mill

Member of The Hundred

Harriet Mill
Other names
née Hardy; other married name Taylor
Birth and death
1807 - 1858
Profession details
Advocate of sexual equality
Related place
Alistair Grant

Harriet Mill [née Hardy; other married name Taylor], (1807-1858) was an English philosopher and early advocate of women's rights. Her reputation has until recently been often overshadowed by her second husband, the philosopher John Stuart Mill. She was born Harriet Hardy in October 1807 in Walworth, south London, and was the daughter of a surgeon. In 1826, she married John Taylor, a wealthy merchant and together they had three children. The Taylors became active in the Unitarian Church. In 1830, a Unitarian minister introduced Harriet to the philosopher John Stuart Mill, and they began an intimate and lasting friendship that lasted for more than twenty years. It was reluctantly tolerated by Harriet's husband, and in 1833 she separated from her husband and moved to Walton on Thames. To avoid gossip John Taylor remained in London, and John Stuart Mill with his family in Kensington. Harriet Taylor lived away from society at Walton-on-Thames, where she was visited by Mill at the weekends. Nevertheless, their behaviour scandalised society, they saw only close friends, and were widely shunned in society. They inspired each other intellectually and often collaborated. Mills' 'The Principles of Political Economy' (1848) has a chapter written by Harriet called 'On the Probable Future of the Labouring Classes' in which she argues for the importance of education for all in the future of the nation, both economically and socially. Her essay, 'The Enfranchisement of Women' (1851) ia now considered one of her most important works, but was originally published under Mills's name. The essay strongly advocated that women be given access to the same jobs as men, and that they should not have to live in 'separate spheres'. Her views on equality were more radical than those of Mills himself. In 1849, Harriet Taylor returned to nurse her husband who was dying of cancer. John Taylor died in 1849, and she finally married John Stuart Mill in April 1851. In autumn 1858, they travelled to France seeking a better climate for Harriet's tuberculosis, but she died of respiratory failure in Avignon on 3 November 1858. John Stuart Mills' most famous work 'On Liberty', which they had written together, was published in 1859 and dedicated to Harriet.

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