By Anne M. Ousterhout
In the course of the period of the yankee Revolution and lengthy after, the identify Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson was once popular in Philadelphia, well-known as belonging to 1 of British North America's so much illustrious girls of letters. One admirer dubbed her 'the so much realized girl in America.' during this, the 1st full-length biography of Fergusson, Anne M. Ousterhout brilliantly captures the lifestyles and occasions of America's first nice lady savant. Born in 1737 to a prosperous kin, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson excelled from an early age. even supposing girls in her day have been denied larger schooling, Fergusson learn extensively, teaching herself in literature, heritage, and languages, even analyzing classical literature within the unique tongues, an strange skill for a colonial lady. She wrote prolifically--often till middle of the night or later, spending yet a number of hours sleeping--and released her poetry. Her journals of a visit to England and Scotland circulated generally between admiring Philadelphians. in the course of the 1770s she hosted a Saturday night salon at her domestic that was once unmatched within the colonies for its brilliance. but regardless of her achievements, Fergusson's existence used to be fraught with monetary woes, undesirable romances, and treasonous plots that hounded her all through her existence. After her father forbade her marriage to Benjamin Franklin's illegitimate son, she secretly married Henry Hugh Fergusson, a British Loyalist who left her prior to the Revolution. Henry's activities, including Elizabeth's personal political indiscretions, earned her effective enemies, resulting in the confiscation of her relatives property, Graeme Park. even though she ultimately succeeded in reclaiming her estate, her popularity was once tarnished within the strategy. Her efforts to justify her activities have been tireless, alienating neighbors and making the final fifteen years of her existence depressing. the main realized lady in the US masterfully narrates Fergusson's efforts to reside an properly genteel existence, while she struggled opposed to the boundaries that her society put on its girls. within the approach, we will be able to start to comprehend the conflicts--internal and external--that ladies of the innovative iteration confronted.
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Additional info for The Most Learned Woman in America: A Life of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson
42 House poor, but verbally rich, Elizabeth Fergusson accumulated stores of knowledge in her commonplace books that could never be taken away. Since domesticity provided ample rhetorical figures, since rhetoric moved the emotions and evoked a moral response, since a moral response was recognized through sympathy, since sympathy deferred to the imagination, and since women were credited with a superior imagination, commonplacing well suited Elizabeth Fergusson and her circle. 44 More than valued for their reproductive capacity in perpetuating the Republican citizenry, women were also esteemed for their domestic contributions to education.
Threatening to the salon’s Platonism in its explicit corporeality and potentially excessive passions, sensibility became the exclusive discourse of women. ’’31 Platonic friendship and correct judgment ensured the emotional restraint demanded by neoclassical (and sexual) decorum. 32 Sending copies of her poems at Annis Stockton’s request, Fergusson explains in an accompanying letter that sensibility—exemplified by female friendship—justifies the scribal publication of her manuscript commonplace books: Remember my dear Friend, that you often ask’d me for my little pieces.
In her commonplace book kept for either Elias Boudinot or Benjamin Rush, moreover, Fergusson shows the intellectual maturity reached in her later life when cut off from the civil society she once enjoyed at Graeme Park. , ‘‘Country Mouse,’’ ‘‘The Dream of a Patriotic, Philosophical Farmer,’’ and ‘‘Hymn on the Beauties of Nature,’’ to name a few), the majority of poems explore the related themes of solitude, aging, and death. She includes a transcription of Thomas Parnell’s poem, The Hermit; Annis Stockton’s poem, ‘‘On the Advances of Old Age,’’ along with her verse, ‘‘Youth and Old Age Contrasted’’; and finally, a collection of elegies for such life-long friends and habitue´ s as Richard Peters, Francis Introduction c Hopkinson, Rebecca Moore Smith, and Ann Willing.