Caroline Lee Hentz

Educator and Novelist in Antebellum America Caroline Lee Hentz (1800–1856) was a nineteenth century novelist and one of the most popular women writers in antebellum America, most noted for her opposition to the abolitionist movement. Her best known novel, The Planter’s Northern Bride, was written in response to the enormously popular anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Early Life Caroline Lee Whiting was born June 1, 1800 in Lancaster, Massachusetts, the youngest of John and Orpah Whiting’s eight children. She was very intelligent and had written a poem, a novel and a tragedy by the age of 12. At age 17, she began teaching at the Lancaster Common School.

Eliza Leslie

19th century Author of Cooking and Etiquette Books Writing under the name Miss Leslie, Eliza Leslie (1787–1858) was an American author of popular cookbooks. Her 1837 manual Directions for Cookery: Being a System of the Art, in Its Various Branches, was the most popular book of the 19th century, having gone through fifty printings. Her books on etiquette and domestic management brought her the greatest fame. She also wrote short stories and articles which were published in children’s books and women’s magazines. Childhood Eliza Leslie was born November 15, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Lydia Baker and Robert Leslie, a watchmaker who was a personal friend of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. She was the oldest of five…

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Catharine Maria Sedgwick

Writer and Novelist in Antebellum America Catharine Maria Sedgwick (1789-1867) was one of nineteenth-century America’s most prolific women writers. She published six novels, two biographies, eight works for children, novellas, over 100 pieces of short prose and other works. Literary critics and historians have recognized her as a primary founder of a distinctly American literature, along with Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper and Sedgwick’s close friend, William Cullen Bryant. Image: Catharine Maria Sedgwick, c. 1850 Charcoal and chalk on paper by Seth Wells Cheney Courtesy Lenox Library Association Childhood Catharine Maria Sedgwick, ninth child of Judge Theodore Sedgwick and Pamela Dwight Sedgwick, was born December 28, 1789 at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in the house which her father had built four years…

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Frances Wright

Abolitionist, Writer and Social Reformer Frances Wright (1795–1852) was a Scottish-born lecturer, writer, feminist, abolitionist and social reformer who became a U.S. citizen in 1825. That year she founded the Nashoba Commune in Tennessee as a Utopian community to prepare slaves for emancipation, but it lasted only three years. Her Views of Society and Manners in America (1821) brought her the most attention as a critique of the new nation. Childhood Frances Wright was born September 6, 1795, one of three children born in Dundee, Scotland to Camilla Campbell and James Wright, a wealthy linen manufacturer and political radical. Both of her parents died young, and Fanny (as she was called as a child) was orphaned at the age of…

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Hannah Foster

Novelist and Journalist in the New Nation Hannah Foster (1758–1840) was an early American novelist. Her novel, The Coquette or, The History of Eliza Wharton, was published anonymously in 1797 – as written by A Lady of Massachusetts. Not only was it the first novel written by a native-born American woman, in its depiction of an intelligent and strong-willed heroine, the novel transcends many of the conventions of its time and place. It is an epistolary novel in which the plot is revealed in letters between friends and confidants. Hannah Webster was born on September 10, 1758 in Salisbury, Massachusetts, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Her childhood and adolescence are largely undocumented. She was sent to boarding school for…

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Judith Sargent Murray

Prominent Essayist and Advocate for Women’s Equality Judith Sargent Murray was a poet and playwright, and the most prominent woman essayist of the eighteenth century. She was also among America’s earliest champions of financial independence and equal rights for women. She argued forcefully for improved female education and for women to be allowed a public voice. Childhood Judith Sargent was born May 5, 1751 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, to the wealthy merchant family of Winthrop and Judith Saunders Sargent. Contrary to Sargent family legend, Judith did not study alongside her brother Winthrop while he was tutored to enter Harvard. Although she considered herself as capable as her brother, her parents provided a typical education for a merchant-class daughter – reading, writing…

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Hannah Adams

First American Female Professional Writer Hannah Adams was born on October 2, 1755, in Medfield, Massachusetts, the second of five children born to Thomas Adams and Elizabeth Clark Adams. Her grandfather Thomas Mason built the house in which Hannah was born, which is still standing. Her mother died when Hannah was 12 years old. Image: Hannah Adams Portrait by Chester Harding As a child, Hannah was frail and timid. Afflicted by chronic ill health, to accompany her sister to school was a hardship. Finally allowed to stay at home, Hannah was taught by her father. She enjoyed the lessons because her father did not confine her to just the Bible, as was the custom in school at that time, but…

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Ann Eliza Bleecker

American Author and Poet Ann Eliza Schuyler was born in New York City in October 1752, the youngest child of Brandt Margareta Van Wyck Schuyler, successful merchants and members of the American Dutch aristocracy. After a long illness, Ann Schuyler’s father died just before she was born. Ann’s mother remarried in 1760 to Anthony TenEyck, also part of the Dutch elite. They had one daughter, Susanna TenEyck. Raised among the aristocracy of New York City, Ann was passionately fond of books, and was known for her precocious writing ability. She wrote verses which were shown to none but her most intimate friends, and was often asked to recite her poems, which ranged from sentimental or humorous to sophisticated or satirical….

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Annis Boudinot Stockton

Poet and Wife of Declaration Signer Richard Stockton Annis Boudinot was born July 1, 1736, in Darby, Pennsylvania, to Catherine Williams and Elias Boudinot, merchant and silversmith, who later moved his family to Princeton, New Jersey. She was their eldest daughter and the second of ten children, though the first to be born in North America (her parents had just returned from Antigua where her father had run a plantation). The Boudinot family settled in Princeton, New Jersey. There Annis was exposed to the intellectual and social circles of the area, and her parents gave her a good education. She became particularly interested in poetry, an unusual pastime for a woman of that time, and published her first poem at…

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Phillis Wheatley

America’s First Black Poet Phillis Wheatley was born circa 1753 in West Africa, and was very likely kidnapped into slavery. She was named for the slave ship, Phillis, that brought her to Boston on July 11, 1761. She was purchased as a personal slave to Susannah Wheatley, wife of tailor John Wheatley, a prominent Boston merchant with a wholesale business, real estate, warehouses, and the schooner London Packet. Phillis was evidently around 7 years old at the time, and took her new master’s surname. A frail child, Phillis was chosen to be a domestic servant and companion to Susannah Wheatley, an ardent Christian, in her later years. Although she spoke no English upon her arrival in this country, Phillis soon…

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