Charlotte Brontë was born on 21 April 1816 in Market Street Thornton, west of Bradford, the third of the six children of Maria and Patrick Brontë, an Irish Anglican clergyman.
Charlotte was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels became classics of English literature.
In August 1824, Patrick sent Charlotte, Emily, Maria and Elizabeth to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire. Charlotte maintained that the school’s poor conditions permanently affected her health and physical development, and hastened the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth, who both died of tuberculosis in June 1825.
Charlotte used the school as the basis for Lowood School in Jane Eyre. Jane, aged 10, lives with her maternal uncle’s family, the Reeds, as a result of her uncle’s dying wish. It is several years after her parents died of typhus. Jane’s aunt, Sarah Reed, dislikes her, abuses her, and treats her as a burden, and discourages her children from associating with Jane.
She is subsequently attended to by the kindly apothecary Mr. Lloyd to whom Jane reveals how unhappy she is living at Gateshead Hall. He recommends to Mrs. Reed that Jane should be sent to school, an idea Mrs. Reed happily supports. Mrs. Reed then enlists the aid of the harsh Mr. Brocklehurst, who is the director of Lowood Institution, a charity school for girls, to enroll Jane.
At Lowood Institution, a school for poor and orphaned girls, Jane soon finds that life is harsh. She attempts to fit in and befriends an older girl, Helen Burns.
The 80 pupils at Lowood are subjected to cold rooms, poor meals, and thin clothing. Many students fall ill when a typhus epidemic strikes; Helen dies of consumption in Jane’s arms.
Featured Image: Peggy Ann Garner in Jane Eyre (1943 film) / Image: Youtube