Harriet Martineau (12 June 1802 – 27 June 1876) was an English social theorist and Whig writer, often cited as the first female sociologist.
Martineau wrote 35 books and a multitude of essays from a sociological, holistic, religious, domestic, and, perhaps most controversial, a feminine perspective; she also translated various works from Auguste Comte.
She earned enough to be supported entirely by her writing, a challenging feat for a woman in the Victorian era. Martineau has said of her approach: "when one studies a society, one must focus on all its aspects, including key political, religious, and social institutions". She believed a thorough societal analysis was necessary to understand woman's status.
The novelist Margaret Oliphant said "as a born lecturer and politician she (Martineau) was less distinctively affected by her sex than perhaps any other, male or female, of her generation." While she was commonly described as having a masculine intellect, Martineau introduced feminist sociological perspectives in her writing on otherwise overlooked issues such as marriage, children, domestic and religious life, and race relations.