Beatrix Potter - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Beatrix Potter

The creator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and many books that followed, Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) was raised in a wealthy, creative family in Victorian England. As was traditional for the time, Potter was privately educated by governesses and exposed to a broad range of subjects in literature, science, history, and the arts. She fell in love with watercolor and nature early on, and started her artistic career with scientific illustrations. She was particularly interested in the study of fungi and mushrooms—mycology—and even went on to submit an illustrated paper with her theory on their germination to a taxonomy and natural history group, the Linnean Society.

After sending letters to her former governess and close friend’s children with little stories like The Tale of Peter Rabbit, she was encouraged to write children’s books. When Potter turned thirty-six, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published and became an instant success. It’s widely credited as the world’s first picture book for children. Walt Disney even offered to make it into a film, but Potter refused so that she could keep the rights. Potter went on to create spin-off merchandise of her storybook characters and licensed them to her publisher long before merchandising was commonly done in publishing. Potter wrote and published over thirty-three children’s stories in her lifetime, all focused on the celebration of animals and British country life. Along with her publishing work, she maintained her passion for the countryside and used her newly earned wealth to buy farms around Windermere. She became a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep and a land preservationist. Upon her death, she bequeathed her estate to the National Trust, and most of her property became the Lake District National Park in England. Potter planted her own garden in life and happily opened it up to everyone to enjoy long after her death.

Rabbits and squirrels and mice, oh my!