I have recently (in the last couple of years) been fascinated by the life of Mary Anning, a female fossil hunter who was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England.
From a poor family, but with a dreamer father who was a fossil hunter himself, Mary grew up exploring the rocky and often dangerous coast that was right outside her door. Her family suffered the loss of several children, and though her father was a cabinet maker by trade, he searched for and sold "curies" to tourists, and his children, Joseph and Mary often joined him on these searches. Mary continued with her fossil hunting after her father died. It definitely generated income from them, both from the souvenir business and selling to serious collectors of paleontological specimens at the time.
I have read three different books specifically about Mary, two are novels, and one a biography of her life that reads like fiction. And her life was very much like a Dickens novel (and he was also interested in Mary, and even wrote about her life in his literary magazine, All The Year Round, and certainly had elements of an Austen heroine's struggle as well.