Next Thursday would have been Beatrix Potter’s 150 birthday, she was born 28th July 1866 and as far as strong British Victorian women, she must surely be up there with the best.
I only came to appreciate the strength, depth and passion of Beatrix Potter’s love for nature, science and conservation 10 years ago when watching a documentary by the BBC, it was published in conjunction with the release of the eponymous film, Miss Potter staring Renee Zellweger.
In my youth, I had always been much more a Brer Rabbit fan (Joel Chandler Harris), set in antebellum America and told through the eyes of Uncle Remus; Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox had so much more sass and had far more risky adventures. In our family we were lucky enough to have the original versions of the “folktales” – not the Disney ones!
So, in comparison, as a child I always felt Potter’s Peter Rabbit was far too refined and very much of a dandy and a wimp!!
Now looking back it is interesting how the differing cultures, genders and upbringing of the two authors was so reflected in their respective rabbit’s attitude.
Back to Beatrix, if I am teaching you to suck eggs I apologise, but I always think this is very worth mentioning – If it wasn’t for Peter Rabbit and friends then the Lake District and the National Trust would most certainly not be the bastion that we know (and love) today.
Being a lifetime friend of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, and with no children of her own, virtually all of the monies, rights and Lake District properties amassed through Peter & friends were donated to The National Trust upon her death.
As was the case with wealthy Victorian ladies, Beatrix was privately educated, no university, even her natural science papers couldn’t be submitted in her own name because she was a woman!
But as a hardworking, gifted and devoted artisan her work eventually got the recognition and following it deserved.
I think we can learn a lot from Miss P, she had confidence in the integrity of her “product”, well before her time she designed and merchandised toys & gifts to complement her books (George Lucas eat your heart out) showing dedication to her brand and then ultimately reinvesting in the nature and area that had inspired her – not rocket science, but certainly a design and marketing principle worth holding strong in 2016.