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Friday, July 24, 2015

Women I Admire: Beatrix Potter Revisited

Beatrix Potter by King cropped.jpg

This evening I had the pleasure to watch a movie that I had wanted to see several years ago when it was in theaters, but for some reason did not get to see. The movie, entitled Miss Potter starred Rene'e Zellweger as Beatrix Potter and was released in 2006.

I have had the pleasure of reading every biography about Miss Potter that I could find in the public library after rediscovering her wonderful artwork and her beautifully innocent and entertaining children's stories as an adult. I remembered how much I loved Peter Rabbit as a child and at that time in my adult life I had also found a place where a very large rabbit warren was. I spent countless summer evenings watching the rabbits come out and interact with each other. That contented time led me to rediscover Miss Potter's stories and artwork.

While I have always preferred the written word to movies made from novels and historical works in print, I do have to say that the movie Miss Potter did represent much of her life story accurately and in ways that moved my spirit and I am glad that I have finally had the opportunity to see this movie.

The film was exceptionally done in a way that accurately captured the life of an extraordinary upper class woman who grew up in Victorian England. It was a time when women of her social class and stature were expected to marry and stay at home to manage a household staffed by servants and have children. In Victorian times, upper class children had limited interaction with their parents and were mainly raised by the household servants and they were educated at home. It must have been such a lonely life for a small child.

Miss Potter, who remained single into her thirties did not expect to marry and was content with her water color paintings and writing children's stories based on all the pets that she had.

The movie does not include this in its story, but as a young woman, her paintings of plants and fungi were so detailed and accurate that they were of the quality to be included in professional journals and texts. They were so accurate that she applied for membership in the Royal Botanical Society. Her membership application was rejected however, not because the quality of her work was not to their standard, but she was disqualified for membership because women were not accepted as members.

What was a tragic dismissal of a unique talent resulted in her turning to using her drawings of her pets to illustrate her brilliant children's stories. They were quite successful and she became an independently wealthy woman. The movie leaves the impression that she ended up being much more wealthy than her parents who were very well off.

Miss Potter's life continued to be plagued by tragedy. She fell in love with the son of her creative works publisher, Norman Warne. They were engaged, a promise of marriage that her parents, particularly her mother objected to as her fiance was considered to be of a lower social class. After their engagement, he fell ill with a respiratory illness and died just prior to their intended marriage date.

Miss Potter though, overcame this terribly sad experience and used her worth to begin buying land in the Lake District of England. This is a place that I have always wanted to visit as I learned of it in college while studying the Romantic Poets.

Miss Potter was able to amass large holdings of land in the Lake District and left them to the National Trust to be preserved for their beauty. She also became known for breeding Herdwick sheep and was elected to the association of sheep farmers and breeders.

Miss Potter's personal life did have a happy ending after all the emotional pain she suffered through her younger years. She later married an attorney, William Heelis and they had many happy years together.

The first article on my blog I wrote on Beatrix Potter can be found at:

For a much more comprehensive account of her life, please visit the Wikipedia article at this link:

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