” A Woman’s Glory is to shine unknown”

MILCAH MARTHA MOORE must have thought the following extract from the travel diary of ELIZABETH GRAEME was worth recording, and perhaps pondering it. And no doubt discussing it with friends in her circle. This piece in which Graeme muses on her future life is touching especially when we know what actually happened to her. There is no mention of a man. Graeme was in fact courted by William Franklin, son of Benjamin. He proposed to her and she accepted. But he went to England and met someone there whom he married instead. She met her future husband at one of her “Attic evenings.” Graeme married Henry Hugh Fergusson, eleven years her junior and penniless, without the approval of her father, or the Society of Friends which expelled her.

I know not what my future State of life is to be, but was I to form a Wish it should not be I think Extravagant. I am not particularly attached to any Spot, but while some dear Friends live, I hope it to be in Philad[elphi]a. Health I look to be the Basis on which we found all earthly Blessings—A Conscience void of Offence as to gross Crimes (for as to Faults & Foibles, no Life is unsullied with them), A Society of Friends who Actions are guided by Affection, Chearfulness, Probity & Good-sense—perhaps if I go any further, you will think me unreasonable in Demands, but this writing diverts me, & I will go on.—The Article of Climate I will give up, we must supply the Deficiencies of that by Contrivance, but them Fortune must be favourable to furnish a warm good House in the Winter, & airy pretty Gardens in the Summer—The Garden for many Reasons I cannot give up, I do not wish for a fortune that would not require Oeconomy, he that saves in nothing is a mad man, he that saves in all Things a Fool—every Person has some particular Taste to gratify which others whose Turns do not lay the same way call Whims & Singularity, but the indulging these Whims & Singularitys, frequently constitute the greatest Pleasure of our Lives, & while they incommode nobody, are not to be restrained.—The Command of our Time is a pleasing Circumstance, but that depends so much on the Station we are placed in, that I dare not make it a Preliminary, however, our Sex have a greater Chance of obtaining it as the Public has no Demands on us, it is the noble Lordly Creature Man, whose Heart must glow, & Head toil for his Country for you know some Author says A Woman’s Glory is to shine unknown.

As for the Pleasure of relieving the distressed, & all that—People as frequently lose the Pleasure, as they obtain the Means, so that I shall say nothing on that Score—If you disapprove my Plan, write a better, in the mean Time I wish you all the above good Things.
31st of May 1765.

Perhaps “the Public has no demands on [women]” as Graeme claims but the demands she made on herself were substantial. She was intelligent and educated (at home), hosted one of the most famous literary salons in Philadelphia, wrote well-crafted petitions to the state of Pennsylvania to recover Graeme Park which had been confiscated as loyalist property, translated classic literature, wrote poetry, and maintained connections with other women.

Her political indiscretions during the Revolution saddened her friends and provided fuel for her enemies. She let herself be used by her loyalist husband Henry to deliver a letter to George Washington urging him to surrender. (Washington expressed his dismay at her involvement.) She also carried an offer of 10,000 guineas to Joseph Reed, an aide to Washington, for his help in obtaining a peace treaty favorable to Britain. When Her loyalist husband went to England she stayed behind to try to regain Graeme Park. She never saw him again. Although Graeme’s reputation was tarnished she continued to write and indeed produced a great body of work, among which was the poem “The Deserted Wife.”

Milcah Martha Moore’s Book: A Commonplace Book from Revolutionary America edited by Catherine La Courreye Blecki and Karen A. Wulf (University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 1997), pp 206-207.


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