Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The One Biography Every Young Woman Should Read

Writing. 

Most young women perk up their ears. 

Christianity. 

Maybe not quite so many, but you'll still get a few.

Politics. 

All young women flee. 

Come back. This biography is incredible, and Hannah More is incredible. Every young woman living in the crazy election year of 2016 should be taking a good, hard look at vision: whether you have one, and how you're living it out. Hannah More is a living example of a young woman who loved artistry, loved Christianity, loved people, and used these loves to shape her turbulent political times. And every young woman could be so much deeper, broader, and more productive by catching the same fire to use her talents for the Kingdom of God. 


The Book [From Goodreads]
The enthralling biography of the woman writer who helped end the slave trade, changed Britain's upper classes, and taught a nation how to read.

The history-changing reforms of Hannah More affected every level of 18th-Century British society through her keen intellect, literary achievements, collaborative spirit, strong Christian principles, and colorful personality. A woman without connections or status, More took the world of British letters by storm when she arrived in London from Bristol, becoming a best-selling author and acclaimed playwright and quickly befriending the author Samuel Johnson, the politician Horace Walpole, and the actor David Garrick. Yet she was also a leader in the Evangelical movement, using her cultural position and her pen to support the growth of education for the poor, the reform of morals and manners, and the abolition of Britain's slave trade.

"Fierce Convictions" weaves together world and personal history into a stirring story of life that intersected with Wesley and Whitefield's Great Awakening, the rise and influence of Evangelicalism, and convulsive effects of the French Revolution. A woman of exceptional intellectual gifts and literary talent, Hannah More was above all a person whose faith compelled her both to engage her culture and to transform it.


My Thoughts 
You know when a book is highly anticipated, and you're worried it won't quite live up to what you hope from it? I've been anticipating the life of Hannah More ever since I saw this biography popping up in my Goodreads stream last year. This month I picked it up from the library.

It--she--was everything I hoped she would be, and this is a biography, especially in this day and age, that every young woman should read.

The first major crux of Hannah's life is friendships. You become who you're around, and it's important to choose friends carefully. I've wrestled a lot with what inter-faith friendships should look like, so one of my biggest curiosity points in this book was looking at Hannah's wide spectrum of friends. I think we're wise to be careful who we're around, but I also think the current church club culture and homeschool girl cliques is far from what God intends by go and disciple the nations. Imagine if Paul only hung out with the twelve disciples. He wouldn't have had nearly the impact or experience in sharing the Gospel that he did. This book didn't give me every answer, and you do see tension in Hannah's life as she tries to figure out this same question. But we see her graciously cultivating friendships with a wide variety of intellectual souls--always well-mannered and educated people, not crass companions--and while not all of them shared her religion, all of them were able to have a respectful and fruitful conversation with one another. The most mature Christians I've seen have an open table and an open life to non-Christians, and I want to have the same kind of hospitality someday.


The second part of this book I found extremely inspiring was More's work in social reform. A lot of times I think we look at today's culture and dismiss it as a hopeless mess. So we sigh and complain, and form our own little hobby farms, and leave the work of reform to people who have a bent for politics. If worse comes to worst, we can move to Canada, according to Facebook. (Seriously? The Canadians laugh at this, guys.) 

More's culture had things just as bad as we do today, and maybe worse. Slavery widely accepted. Factory conditions appalling. The prevailing belief that poor people shouldn't read, and women should only be taught to be decorative. Christianity in name but not in practice. Getting hung for stealing a pound of butter. It wasn't the good old days. And instead of sitting back and bewailing the decline of the culture, Hannah More and William Wilberforce and Henry Thornton and a bunch of others did something about it. They gave away most of their money and time to the point of personal sacrifice. They replaced the appetites and educations of rich and poor alike with wholesome and biblical teaching, tracts, and stories. Stories that were engaging, that sold out and had to be reprinted within hours of their release. We need this kind of engagement and passion in Christians today before we can really expect to see a change. It can be done again. And a faithful few, like the Clapham Sect, can do it. 


Fierce Convictions includes letters, quotes, and narrative about More's beliefs and her life. She came from simple roots and rose to a life of hobnobbing with politicians and bishops. She had a tender spirit and a fun teaching style in her years as a school mistress. She even had a tragic romance, without which we may never have benefited from her extensive reforms for the fair treatment of men, women, and animals alike. Undergoing public attack and private struggles, her pursuit of humble, visionary living deeply touched and inspired me. I think it's a timely message, not only for my personal life, but for young women in our day. 


I hope you'll check this book out and enjoy it as much as I did. You can find lots of book quote posters, endorsements, and purchase links at www.fierceconvictions.com 

14 comments:

  1. Schuyler, this biography sounds absolutely fantastic and definitely the sort of book all young women could do with reading. I have never read Hannah More's biography, in fact, I don't think I had ever heard of her until now! I love Wilberforce's biography though and More sounds somewhat like the female version of Wilberforce. Also, it seems like this book covers a lot of topics that I have been thinking on a lot lately. I question the way many Christians and churches encounter and interact with our culture. As individuals, I think sometimes we have this "guilty by association" fear when it comes to befriending unbelievers or even Christians who might defer from us in their theology and lifestyle. We take a retreating stance instead of an engaging, offensive approach.

    Needless to say, I want to go find this book right now and read it! Thanks so much for sharing, Schuyler, and for offering some of your own thoughts on these topics!

    Dani xoxo
    a vapor in the wind

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    1. Yes! I love how you said that--a female version of Wilberforce. I love her example of godly femininity mixed with Christian boldness, and I hope you enjoy it too! :)

      ~Schuyler

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  2. I've been eying this one on Goodreads, too. It looks amazing!

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    1. I hope you can get your hands on a copy! It's wonderful!

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  3. Yup. I want to read this. Well, I have since you told me about it. I love all the quote posters in your review, too. And about the moving to Canada thing...well, some of us wouldn't mind our American friends living closer. ;) <3

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    1. Those quote posters were amazing. O.o I love having illustrations like that for blog posts.

      Yes, that would be a wonderful reason for moving to Canada! Just not to escape liberal politics, 'cause I don't think you guys have it much better. :P

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  4. I'm so excited about this, Schuyler, as I did not see this biography about before you started reading it! It looks so good, and one of great encouragement and edification for all Christian young women - I've loved the little I know of Hannah More's life, so I'm definitely going to try and get my hands on it.

    It's also a beautiful review you shared, with the points that really inspired you. I loved the quote posters also - they're beautiful!

    Haha, yes, they were definitely not the "good old days" - there was just as much sin and heartache as now; sometimes we can be so prone to fall into the mantra that everything is so hopeless these days, let's just hide our heads in the sand and be hermits! But no, the Lord wants us to be a salt and light even in the darkest of the nights!

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    1. Amen! Salt and light, not hiding our light under a bowl. Since you love biographies a lot, I think you would be truly inspired by this one! Definitely an excellent one to put on birthday/Christmas lists. :D

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  5. Love this review, Schuyler! I'll definitely have to read this book, it sounds so good!

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    1. Cassidy, I think you would love this biography. Such a wonderful example of a woman's heart for Jesus. :)

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  6. Oh my. This sounds like an incredible book. It's quickly mounting on my "To Find Someday and Read" list. :D

    I love those stories of feminine, godly women who have risen to the challenge to actually *do* something about the culture, dared to have real friendships, thought deeply, and held to those "fierce convictions".

    Thanks for the review!

    Kyla <3

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    1. Kyla, this book is your cup of Irish Breakfast tea. It's simply incredible. <3 I hope you get a chance to read it someday! I love her example and would absolutely love to have a phone chat about it with you when we've both read it. It would be wonderful to get your perspective. :D

      Schuyler <3

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