Archive for the ‘Murray, John’ Category

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

“an opportunity of acquiring Musick, painting, and geography”

The first husband of JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY was John Stevens whom she married at age eighteen, more to satisfy her parents’ expectations than from love.

The English preacher John Murray met Judith in 1774 when he visited Boston to lecture on Universalism, a doctrine that emphasized universal salvation and an egalitarian view of the world. They commenced a correspondence mostly on religious matters while Murray toured New England. During the war Murray became an army chaplain to prove his sympathy for the American cause. When Judith, her father, and her uncle were suspended from their parish church in Gloucester for their dissident views, they and others formed a new religious organization calling themselves Universalists and choosing John Murray as their pastor.

In 1786 after his business ventures failed, Judith’s husband John went to St. Eustacius in the West Indies to escape his creditors and to attempt to recoup his losses. He died there in 1787. Shortly thereafter Murray proposed to Judith and she married the man she called the “choice of my heart.” Judith’s interest in religion and her own religious beliefs are clearly reflected in her observations of the Bethlehem Seminary in the continuation of the letter to her sister-in-law.

The sisterhood consists, at this time, of about one hundred Maidens, who after a night of such slumbers, as health, and innocence bestow, assemble in an elegant apartment which is a consecrated Chapel—This apartment is properly fixed up, it is furnished with an Organ, and Musick books, and upon the right, and the left, the following inscriptions, in beautiful capitals meet the eye. “God hath appointed us to obtain salvation, by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake, or sleep, we should live together with Him. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God, for He hath cloathed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” [—] In this Chapel the female Choir, at early dawn, and at closing evening, hymn the praises of the Redeeming God, and prostrating themselves in His presence, the most venerable individual among them, presents their united petitions, and thanksgivings, at the throne of Grace. . . .

At one board they are every day seated, and persons selected for the purpose, prepare their table. The Wash house is at a considerable distance, where the apparel of the sisterhood, the Tutoress, and their pupils, is made fit for use, and in the best possible manner. . . .

Place your daughter at Bethlehem, and, for a very moderate consideration, she will be taught a perfect knowledge of her Mother Tongue—she will be taught the French, and German languages, with the utmost elegance, and propriety—Reading, Writing, Composition, and Arithmetic, will be given her, in as high perfection, as she is capable of attaining them—She is furnished with an opportunity of acquiring Musick, painting, and geography, with the rudiments of Astronomy, and the strictest attention will be paid to her health, and to the purity of her morals—It is, however, in your option, to omit, for your Girl, any of these branches of study—It is scarcely necessary to subjoin, that needle work, in all its varieties, is taught in Bethlehem—An early habit of Order and regularity, without which I sincerely believe, no one important object was ever yet obtained—will also be secured—The pretty Candidate for excellence, is summoned by a bell from her pillow—she must rise at a certain hour, wash and comb, and, neatly apparelled she must attend prayrs—Breakfast succeeds, after which the several employments and amusements of the day take place—By the way, these morning and evening prayrs are playing on their guitars, which they join with their voices, chanting some divine Poem to the praise of the Saviour of sinners—These devotional exercises are performed in a little consecrated chapel, which makes a part of the school building, and into which no male ever enters. Six O clock is the hour of rising, and eight, of retiring to rest—A lamp continues burning throughout the night, and the students are often lulled to sleep, by the soft sounds of vocal, and instrumental Musick—

The school is divided into a number of apartments, each apartment, to its dimensions, contains a smaller, or larger number of Ladies, Every division hath its particular intendant, or tutoress, and over all there is a Superior [—] The Lodging Room is on a separate story, in a lofty situation, and accommodated with a ventilator—The Culinary apartment is under the ground floor, and the diet is wholesome and sufficiently varied—Twice in the course of a year, they pass a public examination at which the Reverend teacher of the Bethlehem society presides, and every sunday collects the whole Congregation [—] Men, Women, and children, in the great, or common Chapel, which exhibits some very affecting selections from scriptures—Performances upon a very fine Organ, accompanied by a Violin, and bass viol, constitute a very delightful part of public Worship in Bethlehem—Singing you know is among the essential Rites of the Moravian Religion, and their music is next to divine—Church service is performed alternately in English, and German, and its matter is rational, and instructive—

The young ladies are much accustomed to walking, and Bethlehem abounds with delightfully Romantic promenades—Every fine evening, guarded by one or other of the Governantees, without whom they never make an excursion, they pursue the pleasingly salutary exercise—Regular stages from Elizabeth Town, Lancaster, and Philadelphia, to this Seminary, have recently been appointed—This produces the children who have friends in the Towns from which the stages set out, or in, those through which they pass, upon a post evening, in the great road—

More of Judith’s letter in the next post.

Bonnie Hurd Smith, the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society, has transcribed and published Murray’s letterbooks. See the complete letter HERE.

posted December 19th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Education,Murray, John,Murray, Judith Sargent

“our Lady Presidentess”

After the death of her child in 1789, JUDITH SARGENT STEVENS MURRAY and her husband John embarked on a six-month journey, via horse-drawn carriage, from Gloucester to a Universalist convention in Philadelphia. She wrote letters to her parents describing her encounters along the way. In 1790 she wrote from New Rochelle, New York, describing a meeting with Martha Washington in New York City, which was then the capital of the United States. This is a repeat of a blog posted in 2011.

About Six O-clock we took a coach for the presence … Colonel Humphry’s, offering his hand, ushered us into the drawing room, a number of Ladies were with Mrs Washington, and her matronlike appearance, and Lady like condescension, soon dissipated every painful idea of distance—taking my hand she seated me by her side, and addressing herself particularly to me, as the only stranger present, she engaged me in the most familiar, and agreeable Chat—. … Mrs Washington’s face is an index of a good heart, and those Virtues which I am told she eminently possesseth, are impressed upon every feature—need I add, that her countenance is irresistibly prepossessing. … Thursday, very unexpectedly opened another scene—I was sitting in my little apartment, alone, and buried in thought—strange that I possessed not the smallest presentiment, of the distinction which awaited me—but so it was … Mrs Washington, and Mrs Lear [the wife of Tobias Lear George Washington’s secretary and friend] were immediately ushered in. If any thing could exceed my surprise, it was the charming freedom with which Mrs Washington took her seat—The unmeaning fopperies of ceremony seem to make no part of this Lady’s Character, inborn benevolence, beams upon her countenance, points her address, and dictates the most pleasing expressions to her lips—one whole hour she condescendingly devoted to me, and so much friendship did her salutations connect, so interesting and animated was our conversation, that a bystander would not have entertained an idea of the distance between us, would hardly have supposed, that we met but for the second time, thus benignly good, and thus adorned with social virtues is our Lady Presidentess, and I confess that in a way perfectly correspondent with my feelings, I have been most highly gratified. …”

Note the use of the word condescension” above. It has a pejorative connotation today, but in the eighteenth century its use was intended to be flattering, connoting the virtue of “generosity.” Judith Murray continued to speak out and write on social and political issues. She wrote plays that were performed at the Boston Theatre on Federal Street and she was the first woman to self-publish a book, The Gleaner, in 1798. After John Murray died Judith went to live with her daughter and her husband Adam Lewis Bingaman in Natchez. She died in 1820 at the age of 69.

This excerpt is from From Gloucester to Philadelphia in 1790: Observations, Anecdotes, and Thoughts from the 18th-Century Letters of Judith Sargent Murray, Bonnie Hurd Smith, ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Judith Sargent Murray Society and Curious Traveller Press, 1998), pages 246, 248-250, 254. Portrait from Phebe A Hanaford, Daughters of America (Augusta: True and Company, 1882), page 109,

posted June 16th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Murray, John,Murray, Judith Sargent Stevens,New York,Washington, Martha

“in my arms a lifeless form I clasp’d”

As the daughter of a fairly well-to-do merchant family living in Gloucester, Massachusetts, JUDITH SARGENT STEVENS MURRAY received the typical education for a girl at the time while her brother had a tutor to prepare him for entrance to Harvard. To make up for her perceived educational deficiency she read widely on her own from books in her father’s library. At age eighteen she married John Stevens; it was considered a good match.
When her father became interested in the new theology of Universalism Judith met the English preacher John Murray who visited Gloucester in 1774. She struck up a correspondence with him that continued through the Revolutionary War. Eventually she and her family broke with the Congregational church and established a new religious society called the Independent Church of Christ choosing Murray as their pastor.
Finding himself so burdened by debt because of the war and trade embargoes John Stevens, Judith’s husband, was forced to leave the country for the West Indies in 1786. He died soon thereafter and John Murray asked Judith to marry him. At age thirty-nine she became pregnant; sadly, the child was stillborn and Judith herself nearly died. Here is the poem she composed expressing her sorrow. In 1791, at the age of forty-one, she became pregnant again and was delivered of a healthy girl, Julia Maria.

LINES, Occasioned by the Death of an Infant.

Soft—tread with care, my darling baby sleeps,
And innocence its spotless vigils keeps.
Around my cradled boy the loves attend,
And, clad in smiles, the dimpling graces bend:
While his fair Angel’s talk, so late assign’d,
Assumes the charge of the immortal mind.

Hail guardian spirit! Watch with tender care,
And for each opening scene my child prepare;
Shield him from vice—to virtue stimulate,
Around his every step assiduous wait:
Not one weak moment thou thy post resign,
Implant the gen’rous wish—the glow divine;
Warn if thou canst—or, ‘gainst the bursting storm,
His little frame with growing firmness arm;
Teach him to suffer—teach him to enjoy,
And all thy heavenly influence employ.
Attendant spirits, hear my ardent prayer,
In paths of rectitude my infant rear;
Trust me, his mother shall her efforts join,
To shield, and guide, her utmost powers combine.

‘Twas thus I plann’d my future hours to spend,
With my soft hopes maternal joys to blend;
But agonized nature trembling sighs!
And my young sufferer in the struggle dies:
As the green bud though hid from outward view,
On its own stem invigorated grew,
Yet ere its opening leaves could look abroad,
The howling blast its latent life destroy’d:
So shrieking terrour all destructive rose,
Each moment fruitful of increasing woes,
And ere my tongue could mark his natal day,
(With eager haste great nature’s dues to pay)
Its native skies the gentle spirit sought,
And clos’d a life with early evil fraught.
For me, the clay cold tenement I press’d,
And sorrow’s keenest shafts tranfix’d my breast;
Dear pledge of love—all tremulous I cry’d—
Fair hope, full many a week thou hast supply’d;
To give thee life, I would endure again—
And every pang without regret sustain!
But icy death thy pretty features moulds,
And to no mortal gaze thy worth unfolds.
Thy funeral knell with melancholy sound,
Borne on the heavy gale—diffusing round
A dirgeful gloom—proclaims I must obey,
And bears thy beauteous image far away;
To the absorbing grave I must resign,
All of my first born child that e’er was mine!
And though no solemn train of mourners bend,
Or on thy hearse with tearful woe attend,
Too insignificant thy being view’d,
To be but by thy father’s steps pursu’d;
Yet thy pale corse the hand of beauty grac’d,
When on thy urn the new pluck’d flow’rs she plac’d,
The purple blow when her soft hand enwreath’d,
And o’er my dead the sigh of pity breath’d.

And still to shade and deck thy early tomb,
Fancy’s rich foliage shall forever bloom,
Embowering trees in stately order rise,
While fragrant sweets the damask rose supplies;
The drooping lily too shall lowly bend,
And none but genial showers shall e’er descend,
Say white rob’d Cherub—whither dost thou stray,
Mid what celestial walk pursue thy way;
To some sequester’d bower hast thou repair’d,
Where thy young hopes may be to knowledge rear’d;
Where the untutor’d, the infantile mind,
With sacred joy the path of truth may find;
Where guardian Angels wait the glad employ,
The latent seeds of evil to destroy;
Where wisdom blending, innocence entwines.
With infant sweetness; where improvement shines;
Where all thy little powers thou mayst expand;
Where unassuming, thou mayst understand[.]
Those laws, by which the Great First Cause directs,
And from eventual ruin man protects.
Go on my Son—thy radiant path pursue,
In paradise I trust thy face to view,
To mark thy progress my Celestial makes,
That virtue, which my soul to transport wakes;
And, my sweet boy, prepare the flowery wreath,
For yet a little, and thy air I breathe;
Misfortunes frequent, will reduce this clay,
Will bear the animating spark away:
And sure thy gentle spirit will descend,
With some blest choir my parting soul attend,
My dying requiem studious to compose,
To lead me where each sacred pleasure flows.
While here—alas—thou mock’d my ardent grasp,
For in my arms a lifeless form I clasp’d:
But there, I shall enjoy the dear embrace,
Amid the infant host my cherub trace.

Nor smile ye censurers that I thus lament,
A being scarce into existence sent;
What said the rock of ages—while he wore
This mortal coil—and all our sorrows bore:
“Regard those innocents—their worth reverse,
“Their Angels in the court of God appear;
“Immortal denizens of Heav’n they are,
“And in that kingdom radiant honours share.”
August decisions—and my heart believes,
With humble joy this truth receives;
Nor fears to err, when in the Just One’s path,
Howe’er mysterious may be its faith,
For God himself descends, with light divine,
And an eternal day shall yet be mine.

CONSTANTIA

The poem can be found HERE. For more information about Judith Murray’s life check this SITE.

posted June 14th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Education,Murray, John,Murray, Judith Sargent Stevens,Religion

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