The most learned woman in America : a life of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson /
Anne M. Ousterhout.
University Park : Pennsylvania State University Press, c2004.
xx, 391 p.
0271023112 (acid-free paper)
More Details
University Park : Pennsylvania State University Press, c2004.
0271023112 (acid-free paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Anne M. Ousterhout was Professor in the Department of American Thought and Language at Michigan State University when she died in 1997.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2004-10-01:
This book is a thoughtful and well-researched biography of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson in Revolutionary-era Philadelphia. Born to wealth, Fergusson was self-educated in literature, languages, and history. She early attracted the attention of such noteworthy people as Ben Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and Francis Hopkinson with her commonplace books, language translations, and poetry. Following a visit to Britain where she met Lawrence Sterne, Fergusson gained attention with her Saturday evening salons, much admired by the intellectual community. She sympathized with fellow Americans as Britain raised revenue rates to offset war expenses, but when she met the debonair Henry Fergusson, a veteran of the Seven Years War, their love affair resulted in a sad, confusing marriage and Henry's subsequent defection to Britain. Beset with health problems and growing debt, Elizabeth tried to save the family estate and her marriage. She managed to save Graeme Park, but could not effect a proper reconciliation with her husband. Elizabeth's poetry, translations, and prose give her a unique position in America's belles-lettres. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Most levels/collections. J. D. Born Jr. Wichita State University
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 2004
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Bowker Data Service Summary
During the American Revolution and long after, the name Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson was well known in Philadelphia, recognized as belonging to one of British North America's most illustrious women of letters. This biography captures the life and times of America's first great female savant.
Main Description
During the era of the American Revolution and long after, the name Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson was well known in Philadelphia, recognized as belonging to one of British North America's most illustrious women of letters. One admirer dubbed her "the most learned woman in America." In this, the first full-length biography of Fergusson, Anne M. Ousterhout brilliantly captures the life and times of America's first great female savant. Born in 1737 to a wealthy family, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson excelled from an early age. Although women in her day were denied higher education, Fergusson read widely, educating herself in literature, history, and languages, even reading classical literature in the original tongues, an unusual ability for a colonial woman. She wrote prolifically-often until midnight or later, spending but a few hours sleeping-and published her poetry. Her journals of a trip to England and Scotland circulated widely among admiring Philadelphians. During the 1770s she hosted a Saturday evening salon at her home that was unrivaled in the colonies for its brilliance. Yet despite her achievements, Fergusson's life was fraught with financial woes, bad romances, and treasonous plots that hounded her throughout her life. After her father forbade her marriage to Benjamin Franklin's illegitimate son, she secretly married Henry Hugh Fergusson, a British Loyalist who left her before the Revolution. Henry's actions, together with Elizabeth's own political indiscretions, earned her potent enemies, leading to the confiscation of her family estate, Graeme Park. Although she eventually succeeded in reclaiming her property, her reputation was tarnished in the process. Her efforts to justify her actions were tireless, alienating friends and making the last fifteen years of her life miserable. The Most Learned Woman in America masterfully narrates Fergusson's efforts to live an appropriately genteel life, even as she struggled against the limits that her society placed on its women. In the process, we can begin to understand the conflicts-internal and external-that women of the Revolutionary generation faced.
Unpaid Annotation
Full-length biography of America's first great female savant, a famous, wealthy Philadelphian at the center of the cultural and intellectual world of colonial America.
Table of Contents
Forewordp. vii
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Introductionp. 1
Sweet Period of Vernal Youthp. 29
Love, Politics, and Rejectionp. 51
This Bewitching Countryp. 81
The Most Learned Woman in Americap. 105
Very Tender and Painful Emotionsp. 139
Everybody Is a Whig or a Toriep. 163
Attainderp. 189
Confrontation and Confiscationp. 215
Between Constitutionalists and Anti-Constitutionalistsp. 235
The Deserted Wifep. 259
Femme Savantep. 285
The Next Narrower Circlep. 311
Notesp. 339
Indexp. 373
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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