Anna Sewell (1820-1878) was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. When she was about fourteen, she sprained her ankle and it was treated badly. That, coupled with a bone disease, meant that Anna could never walk properly. In those days, before the car, horses and one's own two feet were the main means of transport. As she couldn't use her feet, Anna began to rely heavily on horses to pull her around in a cart or trap. She soon grew to love horses and became appalled by the careless and cruel treatment they often received from humans.
In 1871 a doctor told Anna that she had only eighteen months to live. Although very weak, she was determined to write a book that would "induce kindness, sympathy and understanding treatment of horses." Five years later, she was still working on Black Beauty, her only book. By this time she was so weak that she couldn't get out of bed and she could only write a few penciled lines at a time, which her mother would then clearly copy. Black Beauty was finished and published in 1877 and Anna died a few months later. At her funeral, her mother insisted that the uncomfortable bearing-reins should be removed from all the horses in the procession.
Black Beauty was originally distributed by animal rights campaigners as well as through bookshops—and it really did change people's attitudes toward horses and other domestic animals. But it was more than just a piece of do-good writing. Anna Sewell was a natural writer; she knew that if you have a point to make, you must first tell a good story that people will want to read. For well over a hundred years, readers have been proving that she got it right.
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