Judith Sargent Murray

Judith Sargent was born on May 1, 1751, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, to Winthrop Sargent and Judith Saunders as the first of eight children. The Sargent children were raised in the established Congregational First Parish Church. In the 1770s, Judith, her siblings, and her parents all converted to Universalism and helped to fund and create the first Universalist Church in the nation, installing John Murray as the first pastor. The Sargent family was considered to be cultured, politically aware, and civically active. As a wealthy, ship-owning merchant family, Judith's parents were able to provide her and her siblings with a top-notch education. As a female in that time period, her education was unusually thorough. Judith swayed from traditional gender norms by sharing her brother's, Winthrop Sargent, tutor, minister John Rogers, as Winthrop prepared for Harvard. However, despite John Rogers' tutoring, there were few opportunities for her to receive any formal education beyond reading and writing. Much of her knowledge was self-taught through her family's library. She read history, philosophy, geography, and literature. Her deep interest in education and her family's support led her to write poetry from as young as nine years old. According to family legend, her father read Judith's "humble attempts at poetry" to family members, to make it clear he was incredibly proud of her talents. Although she considered herself as capable as her brother, her educational experience was far inferior to his. Thus, even as a young girl, she was painfully aware of the way her society circumscribed the aspirations of women.


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