Judith Sargent Murray Society
JSM's dates: 1751-1820
Judith Sargent Murray Quotes
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"Yes, in this younger world, “the Rights of Women” begin to be understood; we seem, at length, determined to do justice to THE SEX; and, improving on the opinions of a Wollstonecraft, we are ready to contend for the quantity, as well as the quality, of mind.  The younger part of the female world have now an inestimable prize put into their hands; and it depends on the rising generation to refute sentiment, which, still retaining its advocates, grounds its arguments on the incompatibility of the present enlarged plan of female education, with those necessary occupations, that must ever be considered as proper to the department and comprised in the duties of a judiciously instructed and elegant woman; and, if our daughters will combine their efforts, converts to the new regulations will every day multiply among us. To argue against facts, is indeed contending with both wind and tide; and, borne down by accumulating examples, conviction of the utility of the present plans will pervade the public mind, and not a dissenting voice will be heard.
    I may be accused of enthusiasm; but such is my confidence in THE SEX, that I expect to see our young women forming a new era in female history."
The Gleaner, 1798

"The idea of the incapability of women, is, we conceive, in this enlightened age, totally inadmissible; and we have concluded, that establishing the expediency of admitting them to share the blessings of equality, will remove every obstacle to their advancement."
The Gleaner, 1798

"Are we deficient in reason? We can only reason from from what we know, and if opportunity of acquiring knowledge hath been denied us, the inferiority of our sex cannot fairly be deduced from thence ... I would calmly ask, is it reasonable, that a candidate for immortality, for the joys of heaven, an intelligent being, who is to spend an eternity in contemplating the works of Deity, should at present be so degraded, as to be allowed no other ideas, than those suggested by the mechanism of a pudding, or the sewing [of] the seams of a garment?"
On the Equality of the Sexes, 1790

"Whatever is essential to the ethereal spark which animates these transient tenements, will exist when the distinction of male and female, shall be forever absorbed. This thought stimulating, hath banished that diffidence excited by reflections merely sexual.  Yet I do not mean to insinuate, that natural inferiority incapacitates the female world for any effort or progress of genius.  Admitting, however, the door of science barred to us, the path of truth notwithstanding in the page of revelation lies open before us. There, cloathed with becoming reverence, we may freely expatiate; it is this walk, aspiring as I am, I have presumed with trembling awe to enter."
Universalist Catechism, 1782

"The genius of liberty, invigorated in this younger world, hath arrayed itself for the battle—it hath gone forth—it hath originated opposition—its banners have been displayed—it hath enlisted its worthies—the struggle hath been arduous, but the event hath crowned us with success—over veteran foes we have been victorious—independence claps her wings—peace is restored, governments are formed—publick faith established—and we bid fair to become a great and a happy people: Yes, governments are formed, and what hath hitherto been deemed a solecism in politicks, now stands to the eye of experience a palpable reality. We are free, sovereign and independent states, and yet to the federal head we are amenable—"
"The Gleaner," Massachusetts Magazine, May 1792

"Learning, certainly, can never with propriety be esteemed a burthen, and when the mind is judiciously balanced, it renders the possessor not only more valuable, but also more amiable, and more generally useful. Literary acquisitions can never—unless insanity derange the faculties of the mind—be lost, and while the goods of fortune may be whelmed beneath the contingencies of revolving time, intellectual property still remains, and the mental funds  can never be exhausted. The accomplished, the liberally accomplished female, if she is destined to move in the line of competency, will be regarded as a pleasing, and instructive companion—whatever she does will connect an air of persuasive elevation—wherever she may be adventitiously called, genuine dignity will be the accompaniment of her steps—she will always be attended to with pleasure, and she cannot fail of being distinguished—should she, in her career of life, be arrested by adverse fortune, many resources of relief, of pleasure, and of emolument, open themselves before her—and she is not necessarily condemned to laborious efforts, or to the drudgery of that unremitted sameness, which the ro[u]tine of the needle presents."
"The Gleaner," Massachusetts Magazine, September 1792

"Was I the father of a family … it would be my wish to furnish the opening reason of my children, with every help which might be necessary to produce them with advantage in the career of knowledge; I would aid them to figure in the most polished circles, I would stimulate them to every laudibly splendid pursuit, the avenues of literature should be thrown open before them, and they should receive as much information as it was in my power to procure for them; but as, with all my gifts, I should be anxious to endow them with the means of obtaining as great a share of independence as might consist with humanity, I would certainly aim at investing them with some useful qualification, which might serve them in the last necessity, as a fund upon which they might draw sufficient to command the necessaries of life. But if the male part of our American world are, in the morning of their lives, too much neglected in this respect, females have abundantly more reason to complain. Our girls, in general, are bred up with one particular view, with one monopolizing consideration, which seems to absorb every other plan that reason might point out as worthy their attention: an establishment by marriage; this is the goal to which they are constantly pointed, the great ultimatum of every arrangement; an old maid, they are from infancy taught, at least indirectly, to consider as a contemptible being, and they have no other means of advancing themselves but in the matrimonial line…. I would give my daughters every accomplishment which I thought proper, and to crown all, I would early accustom them to habits of industry, and order; they should be taught with precision the art economical, they should be enabled to procure for themselves the necessaries of life, independence should be placed within their grasp, and I would teach them “to reverence themselves.” Marriage should not be represented as their sunum bonum, or as a certain, or even necessary event; they should learn to respect a single life, and event to regard it as the most eligible, except a warm, mutual, and judicious attachment, had gained the ascendancy in the bosom…."
"The Gleaner," Massachusetts Magazine, August 1793

"What a censorious world says of me, cannot offend or permanently hurt me. Was it to commend me, it would do me no real service. I had rather be possessed of an unspotted conscience, the acquitting plaudit of my own breast, and the rational award of a serene mind, than to have world for admirers…. I despise then the low manners of an injurious multitude—it is poor, poor indeed, and I will shield myself in the fair asylum of conscious innocence."
"The Repository," Massachusetts Magazine, May 1793

“By the laws of rectitude accused Persons, however atrocious their offences, are allowed to make their defence, and by a verdict of a Jury of their Peers, they are either convicted, or acquitted. I have some times thought that we Women are hardly dealt by since strictly speaking, we cannot legally be tried by our Peers, for men are not our Peers, and yet upon their breath our guilt or innocence depends— thus are our privileges in this, as in many other respects tyrannically abridged, and we are forced to yield to necessity.”
—Judith Sargent Murray to Esther Sargent Ellery (her sister), 22 April 1797

"In the countenance of Mr Adams, the most pleasing benevolence inmingles with the marks of deep thinking and you immediately conclude the q[u]alities which constitute the sage, the philosopher, the politician, and the man of unbending integrity, are happily associated with the more social virtues…. His Lady hath visited Courts [—] European Writers have ably penned her eulogy [—] I have not the Vanity to suppose that my praise can bestow one additional ray, yes, I may be allowed to say by way of supplement, that it is evident the domestic as well as the more brilliant virtues are all her own [—] We were soon grouped in familiar chat [—] It was with [difficulty] I remembered they were not friends of ancient date."
—Judith Sargent Murray to Winthrop Sargent and Judith Saunders Sargent (her parents), 12 October 1788 (subjects: John Adams and Abigail Adams)

"Mr Kirkland, a respectable Clergyman in Boston, and formerly a classmate of John Quincy Adams jun.— our present Ambassador at the court of Berlin — had once the privilege of passing the vacation holy days at the seat of the President, when the principal pleasure of the young students, were derived from purusing the excellent letters, written by the President, to his Lady, before their mingling hearts had obtained the marriage sanction — and in those letters, the then advocate, circumstantially related his views, the motives of his actions, the theme of his pleadings, and a variety of judicial proceedings, dictating copiously upon every measure, and soliciting her animadversions and advice — the presumption raised from this fact is, that he conceived her a valuable auxiliary — and it is confidently asserted that every transaction of his administration is now laid before her — she is not only his bosom friend, but his aid and his Councellor in every emergency — and such are the energies of her mind, as to place her title to the unbounded confidence of her illustrious husband, beyond all controversy — several Gentlemen in Boston, whose character, and influence, are high in the political world — declare that was the President called out of time, they should rather see Mrs Adams in the Presidential chair than any other character now existing in America —"

Judith Sargent Murray to Epes Sargent (cousin), 2 October 1798

"The Indian treaty was to be publickly ratified, and we took our seats in that superb Hall, where the delegates of the United States, so lately convened in council … suddenly, rude, and tumultuous sounds are heard — frightfully terrific they vibrate tremendously upon the ear…. What sounds are these? Every eye seems to ask— It is the song of praise as sung by the Kings, Chiefs, and Warriors of the Creek Nation, and now having entered the edifice sounding their untutored joy…. Thus is the assembly disposed, when the illustrious President of the United States appears … habited in Vestments of rich purple satin…. The address was solemn and proper … and the signing of the treaty succeeded … and now the Kings, Chiefs, and Warriors one by one advance … and they join hands in peace … seizing the President by the elbow entwined their arms with his … and a second song of peace, by the indians, concluded this affecting, important, and dignified transaction."
—Judith Sargent Murray to Winthrop Sargent and Judith Saunders Sargent (her parents), 3 July 1790 (subject: George Washington)

"My eyes had never before beheld him — but it was not necessary he should be announced — that dignified benignity, by which he is distinguished, could not belong to another … his figure is elegant beyond what I have ever seen … his countenance is benignly good, and … there is a kind of venerable gravity inscribed upon every feature...."
—Judith Sargent Murray to Winthrop Sargent and Judith Saunders Sargent (her parents), 3 July 1790 (subject: George Washington)

"Not a single person left the Grove. The serious attention, in such a place, and from such a throng, made up of people of all descriptions, and in such circumstances, was indeed surprising — The clouds soon broke, the azure sky appeared[,] sun beams began to play, and the birds chanted melodiously…. In his own animated, energetic, and devout manner, the Preacher proceeded, and every countenance confessed the most solemn attention — The rustling of the leaves, the singing of the birds, were not heard, or heard only as adding to the beauty of the scene — During the intermission of the services of the day, scarce a person quitted the romantically enchanting spot — and the Preacher having stepped aside I listened in enraptured silence to the various Comments — Serious investigation was now abroad[,] light seemed more than dawning upon the assembly, and I was particularly happy to hear an old Man, utterly deprived of his natural sight, evince by his remarks, that he clearly saw the things which made for his peace — One aged black man, in the midst of the discourse, softly exclaimed to a Bystander, ‘Blessed God — is there then redemption for a poor slave, as well as for his more happy Master?"
—Judith Sargent Murray to Winthrop Sargent and Judith Saunders Sargent (her parents), 31 July 1790 (subject: John Murray)


Independent scholar and author Bonnie Hurd Smith is the president and CEO of History Smiths, a marketing company that works with businesses to incorporate history -- their own and their community's -- into their branding, marketing, and community outreach to attract customers, boost customer loyalty, and secure a high status reputation in the communities they serve.