Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson

Early American Poet and Writer Elizabeth Graeme was born on February 3, 1739, to a prosperous Philadelphia physician, Thomas Graeme, and his wife, Anne Diggs Graeme. Elizabeth was a premature baby, and was often described as frail and prone to illness throughout her life. She was the youngest of nine children, but because of various difficulties and childhood diseases, only three of her siblings were still alive when she was born. Early on, Anne Graeme read stories to Elizabeth and her siblings before bedtime, and she later encouraged Elizabeth’s interest in knowledge and learning. As the daughter of prominent doctor, Elizabeth received a well-rounded education from her parents and tutors, and she composed poems, letters, and songs. She wrote under…

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Anna Green Winslow

Diarist and School Girl Before the Revolution Anna Green Winslow was born November 29, 1759, at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Anna came from a long line of prestigious, upper-class British colonists. When the weary Pilgrims stopped at Cape Cod – before they made their memorable landing at Plymouth Rock – a young girl jumped on shore, and was the first Englishwoman to set foot on the soil of New England. Her name was Mary Chilton; she later married John Winslow. Anna Green Winslow was Mary Chilton’s descendant in the sixth generation. Anna’s father, Joshua Winslow, was but eighteen years of age when he began his career as a soldier. In 1745, he was appointed Commissary-General of the British forces in Nova…

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Mercy Otis Warren

America’s First Female Playwright and Historian Image: Young Mercy Otis Warren Mercy Otis Warren was an American writer and playwright, known as the Conscience of the American Revolution. Her proximity to political leaders and events of her day, gives particular value to her writing on the American Revolutionary period. With a life that spanned three wars and the deaths of three sons and a husband, Warren remained undeterred in her pursuit of the intellectual life. Mercy Otis was born on September 25, 1728 in Barnstable, Massachusetts – on Cape Cod. Naturally political, she involved herself from girlhood in the conversations of the men in her family. Her father encouraged her to excel, which in colonial America meant she was tutored…

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Esther Edwards Burr

Writer and Mother of Aaron Burr From 1754 through 1757, Esther Edwards Burr – daughter of theologian Jonathan Edwards, wife of Aaron Burr, Sr. and mother of the infamous Aaron Burr – wrote a daily letter-journal to her friend Sarah Prince. Burr’s journal stands as an account of current events and of her daily activities and interactions with a wide circle of family, friends, acquaintances, and her husband’s students and colleagues. Esther interprets her life through the primary cultural institution in her life, the Puritan evangelical church. Her religion shapes her sense of self; everything she is and does, everything that happens to her, she puts within the context of her faith and her God.

Milcah Martha Moore

Quaker Writer and Poet A commonplace book is a manuscript kept by an individual containing literary passages, quotations, recipes, poems, or passages from other sources that the individual thought worthy of recording. Milcah Martha Moore (1740-1829) lived and flourished in the Philadelphia area during its peak, when it was the center of commerce, politics, social life, and culture in the young republic. A well-educated woman, Moore knew and corresponded with many of the leading intellectuals of her day. From her network of acquaintances, she created a commonplace book.

Bathsheba Bowers

Women in Religion: Female Quaker Preacher Quaker writer and speaker Bathsheba Bowers wrote a spiritual autobiography, An Alarm Sounded to Prepare the Inhabitants of the World to Meet the Lord in the Way of His Judgments (1709), one of the first published religious testimonials by an Anglo-American woman. In a biographical sketch of Bowers written in 1879, William J. Potts referred to other works written by her, but none of these has come to light in scholarly research, and her reputation accordingly rests solely on her spiritual autobiography. Raised in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Bowers was one of twelve children born to Benanuel Bowers and Elizabeth Dunster Bowers, English Quakers who had settled in America. When the Puritan persecution of Quakers became…

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Hannah Griffitts

Philadelphia Poet (1727-1817) The American Revolution forced colonists to choose between England and the King, colonial homes and families, and even religious convictions. To support the war was to refute the King, to oppose the war was to deny one’s homeland. For Pennsylvania Quakers (members of the Society of Friends), those decisions were further complicated by their belief in nonviolence and their desire to protect and support the colony founded by William Penn. While Quakers at first supported patriotic resistance to the British, they soon grew uncomfortable with the radical nature of the movement. However, Quakers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere joined most colonists in opposing the British taxation policies of the 1760s and 1770s.

Susanna Wright

Quaker Poet on the Pennsylvania Frontier Image: Wright’s Ferry Mansion This restored 1738 house interprets the life of poet Susanna Wright, and contains a superb collection of 18th-century decorative arts. In the Pennsylvania Colony, frontierswoman and poet Susanna Wright became a prothonotary – the principal court clerk – of the colony, enhancing her stature as a legal counselor to her mostly illiterate neighbors, for whom she prepared wills, deeds, indentures, and other contracts. She also served as an arbitrator in property disputes. Susanna Wright was born in Lancashire, England, to Quaker parents John and Patience Wright, who immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1714, and lived for a decade in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Wrights brought their three youngest children – James, Elizabeth,…

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Sarah Kemble Knight

The Year: 1704 Sarah Kemble, born on April 19, 1666, daughter of a merchant who had settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in the 1630s. Sometime before 1689, Sarah married Richard Knight, who was probably a sea captain and was often away from home. Sarah and Richard lived in a large house on Moon Street in Boston, and she ran a writing school. Sarah is said to have taken over the family business after her father’s death in 1689. She was frequently a witness for legal documents, and probably owned a stationery shop on the ground floor of her house. She also took in boarders, and in October 1704 she set out on an unchaperoned journey on horseback from Boston to New…

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Mary Rowlandson

The Year: 1676 Born around 1637 in Somerset, England, Mary White was the sixth of ten children. Her family immigrated to New England when she was very young, settling first in Salem and later in the frontier town of Lancaster in the Massachusetts Colony. In 1656, Mary married Joseph Rowlandson, the Harvard-educated Puritan minister of Lancaster, and for the next twenty years she occupied the role of a Puritan wife, tending to her home and raising children. Captured by the Narrangansett While her husband was away in Boston trying to convince the Colony’s leaders to provide military protection for the town, Mary Rowlandson’s life was radically disrupted on February 10, 1676, when a contingent of Narraganset Indians attacked and burned…

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