At the end of January 1821 Maria Brontë contracted cancer and became gravely ill. The Brontës had only arrived in Haworth the previous April, so had no relatives or friends of long standing to call on for help with the six young children. Elizabeth Branwell, an unmarried sister of Maria's, had visited before for almost a year in 1815-16, helping with the move from Hartshead to Thornton, and staying on to help with the birth of Charlotte. When Elizabeth Branwell answered this second call, she did so on the understanding that it was only on a temporary basis. She arrived at Haworth Parsonage in summer 1821, and stayed until her own death 21 years later...

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