A Woman to Know: Anna Sewell

I am never afraid of what I know. — Anna Sewell

(image via The British Library)


Anna Sewell grew up with horses. Because of a life-long illness, she spent most of her childhood on her family's estate, only leaving the grounds to ride to and from the train station with her father. He let her hold the reins of his horse-drawn carriage, and little Anna grew to know and love the horses carrying them outside the gates.

"They do not suffer less because they have no words," she told her father.

In 1834, at just 12 years old, she injured both ankles and lost all ability to walk. She endured years of physical rehab, even moving to the seaside to improve her health. Later in life, she managed to walk with a cane and could still ride a horse, but her doctor ordered several months of bedrest every year.

From her bed, she dictated the words of a novel to her mother. She dreamed of a horse's words inspiring kindness in horse owners, and her dream became her only novel: "Black Beauty." The story published in 1877, just one year before her death. Anna wouldn't live to see the novel taught in schools or beloved by children worldwide -- but as she told her mother, she wrote the story in first-person, from Black Beauty's perspective, because she wanted readers to feel "kindness, sympathy and an understanding of the treatment of horses."

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