As it’s International Women’s day, here is a short account of one Sligo lady who was considered ahead of her time for highlighting social issues and provided literary inspiration for the gothic novel Dracula.
Charlotte Blake Thornley Stoker (1818 – 1901)
Charlotte was described as ambitious, intelligent, vivacious and a social reformer. Charlotte was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal in 1818. She moved to Sligo town as a child with her parents Thomas and Matilda Thornley along with her brothers. The family resided in a house on Old Market Street. At fourteen, she witnessed the devastating Cholera epidemic that struck the town. She later vividly recounted the horrifying events to her children. She wrote an account of it, which she sent to her son, the author Bram Stoker. He used her account as inspiration in short stories and the novel Dracula.
Charlotte frequented Longford House in Beltra, County Sligo. She is thought to have worked there perhaps as a tutor to the Crofton family children. Longford House was a prominent meeting place for those in the music and literary world.
Charlotte was vocal on social issues and became involved in the plight of the deaf and mute, and she also advocated for better training for girls in-service. She gave talks and wrote papers on deafness and on female emigration from workhouses.
She married the Civil Servant Abraham Stoker in 1844 in Coleraine, Derry and the couple moved to Dublin where they had seven children.
In the 1870s she moved with her husband and daughters to Europe where the family could live on her husband’s pension. She returned to Dublin after her husband’s death in 1876 and lived with her daughter as her eyesight deteriorated. She died in 1901 aged eighty-three years and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin.
Find out more about Charlotte and the Cholera epidemic on the Sligo Dark Tales walking tour held weekly in Sligo town or book a group tour on the Sligo Dracula Undead Tour.
You can also visit the Sligo Stoker Society website to read more about Cholera and Charlotte.
Experiences of Cholera by Charlotte Stoker, (Caen, 1873).
Dennis McIntyre, Bram Stoker and the Irishness of Dracula (Shara Press, 2013).
Harry Ludlam, A biography of Dracula, The life story of Bram Stoker (W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd, 1962).
Sligo Champion, 25 April 2012