Charlotte Brontë and Ruth Bader Ginsburg defied low expectations early on, and never stopped.

JENNIFER HARLAN is a member of The Times’s archival storytelling team, where she writes for the Past Tense project.

GLYNNIS FAWKES’S graphic biography of Charlotte Brontë opens with the 20-yearold aspiring writer receiving a letter from the poet Robert Southey. He warns her, “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life.” Find yourself a husband, he says;...

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