Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

“the folly of misspending time”

HARRIOT WASHINGTON, the orphaned daughter of George Washington’s brother Samuel, lived at Mount Vernon under the care of Frances [Fanny] Bassett Washington from 1785 until 1792 when she was sent to live with George Washington’s sister, Betty Washington Lewis, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Washington was not happy with Harriot’s comportment and feared for her future. He could be quite severe on occasion and was certainly not adverse to giving advice when he felt it was warranted. The President wrote to her from Philadelphia on October 30th, 1791:

…. You are just entering into the state of womanhood without the watchful eye of a Mother to admonish, or the protecting aid of a Father to advise and defend you; you may not be sensible that you are at this moment about to be stamped with that character which will adhere to you through life——the consequence of which you have not perhaps attended to, but be assured it is of the utmost importance that you should.

Your Cousins, with whom you live are well qualified to give you advice, and I am sure they will if you are disposed to receive it——But if you are disobliging——self willed and untowardly it is hardly to be expected that they will engage themselves in unpleasant disputes with you, especially Fanny, whose mild and placid temper will not permit her to exceed the limits of wholesome admonition or gentle rebuke. Think then to what dangers a giddy girl of 15 or 16 must be exposed in circumstances like these——To be under but little or no controul may be pleasing to a mind that does not reflect, but this pleasure cannot be of long duration, and reason, too late perhaps, may convince you of the folly of misspending time. You are not to learn, I am certain, that your fortune is small——supply the want of it then with a well cultivated mind. with dispositions to industry and frugality——with gentleness of manners——obliging temper——and such qualifications as will attract notice, and recommend you to a happy establishment for life.

You might instead of associating with those from whom you can derive nothing that is good, but may have observed every thing that is deceitful, lying, and bad, become the intimate companion of and aid to your Cousin in the domestic concerns of the family.

Many Girls before they have arrived at your age have been found so trustworthy as to take the whole trouble of a family from their Mothers; but it is by a steady and rigid attention to the rules of propriety that such confidence is obtained, and nothing would give me more pleasure than to hear that you had acquired it——The merits and benefits of it would redound more to your own advantage in your progress thro’ life, and to the person with whom you may in due time form a matrimonial connexion than to any others——but to none would such a circumstance afford more real satisfaction than to Your affectionate Uncle
G. Washington

Note that uppermost in Washington’s mind was that Harriot develop “qualifications” that will make her attractive as a potential marriage partner, especially since she did not possess a substantial dowery. An advantageous marriage was the goal of most girls of good family.

“From George Washington to Harriot Washington, 30 October 1791,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-09-02-0074. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 9, 23 September 1791 – 29 February 1792, ed. Mark A. Mastromarino. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000, pp. 130–131.]

posted June 19th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Education,Lear, Frances "Fanny" Bassett Washington,Washington, George,Washington, Harriot

“to-morrow is Dancing day”

Although this excerpt of the letter of ANNE BLAIR to her sister MARTHA BLAIR BRAXTON appeared in an earlier post it seems appropriate to revisit it as it follows the previous post chronologically and is worth repeating. Anne in Williamsburg is describing the education and antics of her sister’s daughter Betsey who is in her charge.

August 21, 1769.. . . . Betsey is at work for you. I suppose she will tell you to-morrow is Dancing day, for it is in her thought by Day & her dreams by night. Mr. Fearson [the dancing master] was surprized to find she knew much of the Minuet step, and could not help asking if Miss had never been taught, so you find she is likely to make some progress that way. . . . her Reading I hear twice a day and when I go out she is consign’d over to my Sister Blair: we have had some few quarrels, and one Battle; Betsey & her Cousin Jenny [Jane Blair, daughter of Judge John Blair] had been fighting for several days successively, and was threaten’d to be whip’d for it as often, but as they did not regard us——her Mama & self thought it necessary to let them see we were in earnest——if they have fought since [I] have never heard of it——she has finished her work & Tucker, but the weather is so warm, what with all ye pains I can take with clean hand’s [sic], and so forth she cannot help dirtying it a little. I do not observe her to be fond of Negroes Company now nor have I heard lately of any bad Word’s [sic]; chief of our Quarrel’s is for eating of those Green apples in our Garden, & not keeping the Head smooth. I have had Hair put on Miss Dolly, but find it is not in my power of complying with my promise in giving her silk for a Sacque & Coat; some of our pretty Gang, broke open a Trunk in my absence and has stolen several thing’s one of wch the Silk makes a part——so immagine Betsey will petition you for some.

Instruction in dancing was commonly given to girls (and boys) from wealthy families as it was considered a social asset and also played a role in the courtship ritual. It is not clear whether the remark about not being fond of the company of Negroes is intended to be positive or negative. The word “now” may indicate that Betsey had enjoyed the company of Negroes and perhaps this was not considered a “good” thing.

More from Anne in the next post including some modern-sounding words.

William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XVI, 1908, 177.

posted June 1st, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Blair, Anne,Braxton, Mary Blair,Education,Virginia

“I am about to leave you”

A salute to JEMIMA CONDICT, the daughter of a New Jersey farmer, in this last post of Women’s History Month. Jemima’s compulsion to commit her thoughts to paper is the reason we have information about her life and the events during the American Revolution. “Sometimes after our people is gone to Bed I get my Pen for I Don’t know how to Content myself without writing Something.” She was not well schooled but she did learn to write: “When I was But a Child my Dear Parents sent me to school to Mrs. D.W. where there was some Children that I now think was none of the Cleverest. I Don’t write this to excuse myself for I know I want sent to Learn of them, But O how ready I was to idle!”

In April of 1779 she bade farewell to her parents and sister as she was about to marry her first cousin Revolutionary War Captain Aaron Harrison. Recall her conversation with her mother about marrying a close relative in this post.

Dear & Loveing parents I am about to leave you & Do Beg your forgiveness for all I have Done a miss while in your servis. I Confess I have bin a greaf to you all my Days Instead of a Comfort which is now a greaf to me. I thank you for all your Kindness to me. I am going Where I Shall have No father to Pray Night & morning [her father was a preacher]. I have Lived this four and twenty years under great mercys, But I have made So poor use of them, it is just I should be Deprived of them all, yet Dear father I Beseach of you Not to forget me, But Pray for me, O Pray for me Dayly, So after onece more asking your forgiveness & Blessing I remain your

My Dearest & Loving Sister, you & I have Lived many years together, But Now we must Part, which is a hard thing to me, O how Can I? my Dear Sister, I have not Bin Such a sister to you as I ought to a bin yet Cant you forgive me? yes pray So forgive all & don’t forget me. We have Spent many Pleasant hours together & hope we shall as many more & bettor then an any we have before. So farewell my Dear Sister, farewell.

Jemima had a child, Ira, in November 1779 and died of complications of childbirth.

The first quote is from In the Words of Women: The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799, by Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011) xiii. The other excerpts are from Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 70-72.

posted March 30th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Condict, Jemima,Education,New Jersey,Religion

Equality of the Sexes and the Education of Women

One can spend a long time with JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY, but for now let me fill in the gaps in her life, promising to return at a later date.

Judith and her first husband John Stevens had no children although they adopted his niece and a young cousin of hers. After the Revolution, when Stevens found himself in financial distress, Judith began to write for publication in the hope of earning some money. For “Desultory Thoughts upon the Utility of Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency, Especially in Female Bosoms,” which appeared in Gentleman and Lady’s Town and Country Magazine, she adopted the pseudonym “Constantia.” To avoid debtor’s prison John Stevens fled to the West Indies where he died in 1786. Two years later the young widow married Reverend John Murray. Their first child, a son, lived but a few hours. In 1791 she was delivered of a daughter named Julia.

Judith continued to publish essays focusing on equality of the sexes and the education of women. Assuming the identity of a man she wrote a column for the Massachusetts Magazine called “The Gleaner,” in which she explored political, religious and moral subjects; a collection of these essays appeared later as a book which she published herself. In addition she wrote poems and she authored two plays that were actually staged.

John Murray suffered a stroke in 1809 and Judith devoted herself to his care until his death in 1815. Their daughter married well and when she and her husband moved to Natchez, Mississippi, Judith went with them. She died there in 1820. As has been noted in an earlier post her letterbooks were discovered on a nearby plantation some 164 years later.

Judith Sargent Murray was a remarkable woman whose works have relevance today.

Additional information about Murray can be found HERE and HERE.

posted January 2nd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Education,Murray, John,Murray, Judith Sargent

“The Cap . . . is . . . an insignia of their order”

JUDITH MURRAY SARGENT has more interesting remarks to make about the Bethlehem Seminary in her Letterbook. She describes the dress, particularly the caps, of the students and also the sisters who teach them as well as the inhabitants of the town.

It is amazing what eronious conceptions are formed of this Seminary—Even at New York, I heard the Gentleman, and the Man of letters, exclaim—“What, immure your Girl with in the Cloistered walls of Bethlehem? Surely then you do not intend her for society[”]—yet, it is true, that there is no undue confinement, nor restraint—Even the sisterhood make frequent excursions to the adjacent Villages—I have heard much of the awkwardness, and the [immature] heart of the Bethlehem scholar, but I could not trace it in a single instance, and there absolutely is, in their manners an elegant care, and simplicity, which is enchantingly prepossessing—Indeed, dwelling there together, they are constantly accustomed to society, and, it is a fact, that Bethlehem is the resort of the genteelest strangers—It is true dancing is not taught in Bethlehem—but if it be taught proper dancing may be a subsequent acquirement, and a young Lady, designed for the great World, may be very soon initiated into its customs—Mean time, at Bethlehem, she [acquires in her] early days, a good foundation —she will imbibe the chastest system of morals, with a fund of benevolence[,] her mind will be stored, and she will receive almost every embellishment.

An exact uniformity in dress is not required—It is a request made to parents, and guardians, that all excess may be avoided, and they are fond of seeing the children in white—The Cap, however, is, if I may be allowed the expression, an insignia of their order— ll the young Ladies put it on — it is made of Cambrick, received a narrow border of Lawn, sets close to the head, and is fastened under the chin, with a pink ribbon—It is of pure white, indeed all the Bethlehem linen is uncommonly white, and although, upon a cursory view, we are induced to think, this same cap could only suit a handsome face —yet, however they manage it, I protest there was not one of the Girls, to whom it did not seem to add a charm—The fashion of the cap worn by the inhabitants, and which, for more than a Century, the Moravian Women have not changed, sets also close to the head but it is a different pattern, and not near so becoming—It is however assumed by every female, of every description—Maids, Wives, and Widows, and, by way of distinction it is fastened by the Maidens, with a red, or pink ribbon by Wives with a blue, and by widows with a white, and this knot of ribbon, is the only ornament worn by a Bethlamite female . . . .

In the next post Judith Sargent Murray describes the funeral customs of the Moravians.

Bonnie Hurd Smith, the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society, has transcribed and published Murray’s letterbooks. See the complete letter HERE. The portrait is of a Young Moravian Girl (1755) by John Valentine Haidt (1700 – 1780). The lacing of the bodice is typical and the cap is as described by Murray.

posted December 26th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Clothes,Education,Murray, Judith Sargent

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