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Untold Tale of Dracula’s Mother: Pestilence survivor to gothic inspiration

Sligo Women's History Profile on Charlotte Matilda Blake Thornley Stoker

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)

Family Charlotte Stoker B&W

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. Many literary academics have suggested that the character of Mina Harker in Dracula was based on his mother, who was a deeply pious woman. Several biographies on Bram Stoker credit his mother with being a strong influence on his life and literary works.

Cholera Victims
Victims of Cholera

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.

Longford house sligo
Longford House, Beltra, Sligo – Source:

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 died 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.

Charlotte Thornley headstone -
Charlotte M.B. Stoker,who died on Dublin in March 15, 1901, in her 83rd year and is buried here

Find out more about Charlotte and the Cholera epidemic on the Sligo Dark Tales walking tour in Sligo town or book a group tour.

You can also visit the Sligo Stoker Society website to read more about Cholera and Charlotte.

Please credit and or link back to this article.


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

Wellcome Collection 

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Declan Stoker Walker McGinn

    Abraham (C.) Stoker, (who married Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley in 1844), is a Maternal Ancestor of mine. Her Son, Sir William Thornley Stoker – President R.C.S.I. passed away on 1st June 1912. Coincidentally, I was born 1st June 1962, precisely 50 years later. Anyway, upon completion of supplying and assisting The R.C.S.I. Library with the creation of Archival Boxes supplied by my Firm in the early 2000’s, that I discovered that the Registration Books and Journals, which I was handling, were those of Sir William Thornley Stoker, et al. Small World!

    1. SWT

      Hello Declan, it is indeed a small world, how nice to have that connection back to your ancestor, Sir William Thornley Stoker, he led quite an interesting life and influenced Bram’s work. I am also a member of the Sligo Stoker Society and we have carried research into the Stoker and Thornley family, we also had Dacre Stoker visit Sligo last October and we unveiled new historical information boards around Sligo town. You might like to check out we’re also active on Facebook and Twitter as well.
      Kind Regards Melissa

    2. Douglas Appleyard

      It is great to see see such interest in Bram and his family connections. I am descended from Dr William Stoker (1773-1848) of Cork Street Fever Hospital, as is a branch of the Walker family. Dr William lost his position at the Hospital which he had helped to set-up partly due to cholera. He wanted to allow cholera patients into the Fever Hospital, but the Management Committee would not have it. From a medical point of view, I have details on 10 Irish ‘Doctor’ Stokers, 7 in my line and 3 in Bram’s. A medical dynasty?

      1. SWT

        Thanks for sharing your interesting Stoker connections Douglas. There was so much fear associated with Cholera I’m not surprised by the authorities, Dr William Stoker was certainly a humanitarian for his time. Here in Sligo, the Grand Jury and medical board were planning for Cholera and tried to open a temporary field hospital in the town but a mob threatened to burn the building down on the first sight of a patient entering the building. Thankfully, they let the Fever hospital be used for cholera patients but it quickly became overcrowded with people dying outside in the grounds.

  2. Alvean Jones

    What a very interesting image. Who should I contact to ask for permission to include the photograph of Charlotte M. B. Stoker in the book I am working on? I am including a letter she wrote (in the 1860s) on the necessity of the education of deaf children.
    thanking you in advance.

    1. SWT

      Hi Avean, sorry for the delay in replying your comment went to the pending folder and I’m only seeing it now. Your book sounds very interesting, hopefully, you got sorted already but if not you can direct your query to the Bram Stoker Estate they own the image,

      Do comment back when your book is published and let me know the name of it, I’d like to read it,. All the best, Melissa

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