|Author Name Variants||Bertha Thomas|
|Publication||Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883.|
|Link to Text||https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiuo.ark:/13960/t2799ck44|
|Research Notes||Famous Women Series|
|Digital Source Notes|
Tulane University, December 2015
George Sand is an 1883 biography by Bertha Thomas and the third volume in the “Famous Women Series” published by Roberts Brothers. The book follows the subversive life of prolific French novelist, memoirist and playwright, Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, who is best known by her male-presenting pseudonym, George Sand. Thomas’s work was widely available in print, a sign of its popularity. What is most distinct about George Sand is its unique approach to its subject’s controversial life. Before its publication, only men had produced biographies on Sand (oddly enough, one of these male-authored biographies was re-printed as an appendix in Thomas’s volume). Thomas’s perspective as a woman opened a door onto new insight.
The book is split into twelve chapters, each accounting for a different aspect of Sand’s story, including “Girlhood and Married Life,” “Mental Development,” and “Solitude, Society and Socialism.” Thomas’ style throughout remains detailed and objective—she begins with a straightforward recap of facts. From there, she focuses on providing justifications for Sand’s rebellious choices, such as wearing men’s clothing, smoking cigarettes in public, or participating in sexual liberation. We learn Sand was an established socialist who fought for poor, working-class, and women’s rights with a sense of social justice she developed during her liberal upbringing. Deftly, Thomas crafts a portrait of Sand with explanations of her philosophies and discussions of her life’s events. For some readers, Thomas went too far. The Boston Daily Advertiser deemed her style “careless and involved” (244). Others, however, appreciated her unique approach. A quote from The Hartford Times, included at the back of the biography, explains, “The author modestly refers to it as a sketch, which it undoubtedly is, but a sketch that gives a just and discriminating analysis of George Sand’s life, tastes, occupations, and of the motives and impulses which prompted her unconventional actions, that were misunderstood by a narrow public” (Sand).
As the Woman’s Department of the 1884 New Orleans World’s Exposition was essentially a platform for American women to redefine the conception of women’s labor and work, including art, it is only logical George Sand by Bertha Thomas was incorporated. The content of the book cannot go ignored here: Sand’s subversive character was a redefinition in itself of woman’s work and place in society, and the book serves practically as a reexamination of her life. It also holds a place in the prestigious “Famous Women Series,” which adds to its significance. Thomas as an author was dedicated to the same project of reinventing “woman” that characterized the Woman’s Department of the 1884 Exposition.
Bertha Thomas was born in 1845 in Worcester, England to her well-connected English mother, Maria Sumner, and Welsh father, Reverend John Thomas (Bohata 20). A quite popular writer in her time, she never married and lived with her unmarried sister, Frances Olivia, a musician (Bassett). Interestingly, she was trained as an artist but found her niche in literature (Bassett). Though some of her works mention Welsh identity, there is little evidence to say she ever lived in Wales. (Bohata 20) Thomas authored novels, short stories, and literary criticism, including the collection Stranger Within the Gates: Short Stories, which engaged with feminism and the idea of the New Woman. Thematically, many of Thomas’ works center on experiences of challenging and/or blending gender, class, and national identity scripts.
Bassett, Troy J. “Author Information At the Circulating Library: Bertha Thomas.” Victorian Research, 3 July 2015. victorianresearch.org/atcl/show_author.php?aid=732. Accessed 4 Dec 2015.
Bohata, Kirsti. “The New Woman and ‘Anglo-Welsh’ Hybridity.” New Woman Hybridities: Femininity, Feminism, and International Consumer. Edited by Ann Heilmann and Margaret Beetham, Routledge, 2004. Google Books, books.google.co.uk/books?id=x_qBAgAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false.
“George Sand.” Boston Daily Advertiser, 2 July 1883, p.4. America’s Historical Newspapers.
Thomas, Bertha. George Sand, Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=4d5lAAAAMAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false.