Judith sargent murray 1751 1820
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John Singleton Copley (1738-1815)Portrait of Mrs. John Stevens (Judith Sargent Murray)1770-72Oil on canvas50 x 40 inchesPhotograph courtesy of the Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Acquisition Endowment Fund, Chicago, Illinois.[Judith Sargent Murray Society; http://www.hurdsmith.com/judith/caption.htm

  • Judith Sargent Murray, essayist and poet, was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the first child of Winthrop and Judith Saunders Sargent

  • The Sargents were prosperous, public-spirited merchants who were interested in the advancement of education and culture.

  • her parents provided Judith with the same instruction given her brother Winthrop, short of Harvard College

  • On 3 October 1769, at the age of eighteen, Judith Sargent married Captain John Stevens, a merchant seaman, who built for her, probably with the help of her father, the Gloucester mansion known today as the Sargent-Murray-Gilman-Hough house.

  • First marriage to Stevens not happy

  • In 1786, after escaping from his creditors by crawling out a rear window of his house, Stevens sailed for the West Indies without his wife and died on the island of St. Eustache.

  • the Sargents and the Stevenses were among the first converts to Universalism when the Reverend John Murray (1741-1815) settled in Gloucester in 1774

  • Begins composing “On the Equality of the Sexes” in 1775

  • She developed an early love for poetry, but during revolution she became more interested in themes of liberty and human rights

  • Murray became a lodger in Mrs. Stevens's house either shortly before or soon after her husband's death.

  • Their mutual interests drew them together and culminated in their marriage on 6 October 1788; he supported Judith’s literary ambitions

  • During her second marriage, she turns more fully to writing to Universalism when the Reverend John Murray (1741-1815) settled in Gloucester in 1774

  • Before 1788, her only publication was “Desultory Thoughts upon the Utility of Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency in Female Bosoms” (1784)

  • essay advocated that young women be allowed to have more self-respect and ambition

  • Signed Constantia, a pseudonym which she used for all but a few of her published works

  • fall of 1789 at the age of thirty-eight, Judith Sargent Murray gave birth to her first child, George, who died a few days later

  • She begins publishing again in January 1790, with a poem in the newly founded Massachusetts Magazine under the title "Lines, occasioned by the Death of an Infant.”

  • “On the Equality of the Sexes” published in Massachusetts Magazine in 1790

Essay is addressed as follows: Murray gave birth to her first child, George, who died a few days later


The following ESSAY is yielded to the patronage of Candour.—If it hath been anticipated, the testimony of many respectable persons, who saw it in manuscripts as early as the year 1779, can obviate the imputation of plagiarism.

  • Murray gave birth to her first child, George, who died a few days later Gleaner Essays” published Massachusetts Magazine between February 1792 and August 1794

  • built around the story of Margaretta, an orphan adopted by Mr. Vigillius (the Gleaner) and his wife while on a trip to South Carolina

  • education, courtship, and marriage of Margaretta serve as a vehicle to talk about equality of the sexes and female education

  • Margaretta is able to reject a licentious suitor and establish herself in a viable marriage

  • Her first play, year that the ban on performing plays was repealed The Medium; or, Virtue Triumphant, was performed once at the Federal Street Theatre on 2 March 1795.

  • Her second and last play, The Traveller Returned , was performed a year later and survived only two performances

  • Plays were politically in nature, linking the social and the political; first play in particular advocated women’s rights

  • also: defending cultural and artistic benefits of the theater

  • Turns mostly to editing after 1796 year that the ban on performing plays was repealed

  • Published a subscription version of her works in three volumes in 1798, entitled The Gleaner

  • Later edited her husbands writings and sermons

  • Died in 1820 in Natchez, MS, where her daughter had married the son of a wealthy planter