Harriet Martineau, who was the sixth of eight children in her family, was born in Norwich, England. Her father, who was a textile manufacturer, ensured she obtained a good education. When her father, her eldest brother and the man to whom she was engaged died shortly after each other, Harriet had to support her mother and herself by needlework and writing for the Globe on economic topics such as machinery and labour. Due to her ill health and deafness she was precluded from teaching, this however did not stop her from achieving fame by publishing a celebrated political tract at the time of the Reform Bill.
After a further spell of ill health, Harriet Martineau settled in Ambleside in the Lakes, where she built herself a house in 1846 and called it The Knoll. It was here that she wrote books, articles and pamphlets on historical, political and philosophical topics. In 1855 she published her Guide to the English Lakes, which was full of practical advice on where to eat and what to wear. She wrote more than 1600 leading articles for the Daily News. Many well known people visited her at The Knoll, these included Florence Nightingale, George Eliot, Charles Darwin and Charlotte Bronte, to name just a few. On 27 June 1876 Harriet Martineau died at The Knoll. Her life and work are represented in the Armitt Collection at The Armitt Museum in Ambleside.