Archive for the ‘Murray, Judith Sargent’ Category

“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

Education for Women: the Bethehem Seminary

JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY (1751-1820), born in Massachusetts, was an essayist, poet, and playwright who believed that women should have the opportunity to receive an education equal to that of men. She was also one of the few women of her time to keep letter books over a long period of time—most women did not think their letters serious enough to be worth saving. (In 1984, 20 volumes of 5,000 letters by Murray were discovered in Natchez, Miss. in a house near her daughter’s where she died.) Murray and her husband had visited the Bethlehem Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1790 and she sent her cousin’s wife Dorcas Sargent an extensive description of the town of Bethlehem as well as the school for young girls located there and run by Moravians: its founding, its physical appearance, its curriculum, etc. The next several posts contain excerpts from that letter which will give the reader a feeling for the school which Maria Jay was attending. (See two previous posts.)

. . . . I have this morning been endeavouring to summon before me, the several events of our journey, for the purpose of selecting for you, something which may be calculated for your amusement, and as you are so usefully engaged, in forming the opening mind, I think I cannot do better, than to make for you a little sketch of our Bethlehem tour —
We were drawn thither, by the fame of that Seminary, and high as our expectations were raised, we are obliged to acknowledge them far surpassed—Bethlehem is in the State of Pennsylvania, situated fifty four miles North of Philadelphia—It is a beautiful Village, which may, without the smallest enthusiasm, be pronounced a terrestrial Paradise—It is true, we do not wander through Orange, and through Citron Groves, but nature hath shaped the most enchanting walks, embowering shades, meadows, hills, and dales greet the eye, with most refreshing Variety—Parallel rivers pursue their glassy course—the margins of which are planted by the most flourishing and highly perfumed locusts, Cedars, Chestnuts and a variety of trees bearing in their season, the most delicious fruit—Now the fertilizing stream murmurs along, in a direct line now indented, or projecting, its Borders still ornamented by the richest foliage, its diversified meanderings exhibit the most pleasing, and romantic views—
Upon an eminence in Bethlehem, the cultivated scene opens before us —a chain of verdant hills encircle it, and this little Eden, is embosomed in the midst—The Town, with a very few exceptions is built with stone, and the dwellings are generally planned upon a large scale—The house of the Brethren, that of the Sisterhood, the Asylum for widows, and the Seminary for young Ladies, are uncommonly elevated and capacious, and there is an air of dignified simplicity remarkably exemplified, through the several structures—The greatest Order, and unanimity, is preserved in Bethlehem, even their water works are characteristic—the inhabitants are supplied from one spring, a cistern conveys it to their kitchens, by the aid of a pump, worked by a water Machine, the cedar pipes receive it, and the ready spout issues at pleasure, the purifying stream in every dwelling—
The Town was originally founded by Germans—Many natives of Europe now reside there, and they preserve their ancient customs with much exactness—A great variety of Arts, and manufactures, are carried to high perfection in Bethlehem, among which is the business of the Tanner, Clothier, stocker[,] Weaver, Tin Works, Blacksmith, Gold and silver smith, saw and sythe Maker, Wheel Wright, and Chaise and harness maker—Grist Mills are fashioned upon the best plan, and they have a Brewery after the English model, Printing, and book binding are said to be finished in the neatest manner—in short they exhibit, and encourage, all the common Crafts—
Their Religion seems to be a system of Benevolence—its foundation is true Philanthropy, upon which broad base, is erected the super structure of Philanthropy—I admire, beyond expression, the regularity conspicuous in every department, and the Virgin Choir derive all the advantages, which the Cloistered Maiden can boast, without connecting her restraints—I inquired of one of the sisters, if it were in her power to quit her engagements—Our doors, Madam, replied the charming Recluse, are always open—but once relinquishing this retreat, a reentrance is very difficult—the Circle of Amiable Women dwell together in perfect Amity, every one cultivating and exercising her different talent, the profits arriving there from, constituting a common fund—Never did I see all kinds of needle work carried to higher perfection—every flower produced by prolific Nature, is exactly imitated, as to render it only not impossible to designate them—I never saw them surpassed, by any imported from Europe, and with the beauty, richness, and exquisite shading of their embroidery I was highly pleased—as we pass through the apartments, the tambour embroidery, flowers, etc etc are displayed for sale—I requested that their Value was beyond my reach—Neither is the Loom, or the distaff neglected—Cloths of a superior kind are manufactured in Bethlehem—and we were shown the art of spinning, without a wheel!

See complete letter HERE. Bonnie Hurd Smith is an author and the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society. The paragraphing in the letter has been added by Smith. She describes the contributions of Judith Sargent Murray in this VIDEO. See other posts by Murray HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. See also another POST about the Seminary. The portrait of Murray is by John Singleton Copley (Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection).

posted December 12th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Education,Murray, Judith Sargent

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