The Beauty myth

Background to the story of ‘Black Beauty’

source: Justine Hankins
Guardian Weekend May 18 2002 p83

‘Black Beauty’ was written by Anna Sewell, and has become a classic children’s book, which is very different from the TV version. The book has lots of tips about caring for horses, while the horse, Black Beauty, makes many moral observations. Sewell wanted to show how badly treated working horses were. She was born to a Quaker family in 1820, and was taught to be kind to animals as part of Quaker ideals. Quakers were involved in 19th century organizations that tried to improve animal welfare. Sewell hurt herself badly when she fell off a horse as a teenager. She finished ‘Black Beauty’ in 1877, and died in 1878. The book was taken up by the RSPCA in Britain, and the Humane Society in the US.

Sewell wrote about overwork, neglect and cruelty to working horses, though she also understood the problems of poorer people who asked too much of their horses because of their poverty. Cruelty to horses because of vanity of greed angered her more.