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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Judith Murray

b. 1751, Gloucester, Massachusetts; d. 1820, Natchez, Mississippi

Judith Murray’s career as a writer was shaped by the Revolutionary turmoil that generated debate over the rights and status of women. Daughter of a wealthy shipowner, she was primarily self-taught and wrote poetry as a child. In 1788, already widowed once, she married John Murray, a founder of the Universalist denomination, and the couple settled in Boston. Two essays would establish her as an advocate for female education and intellectual independence: “Desultory Thoughts upon the Utility of Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency, Especially in Female Bosoms” (1784) and “On the Equality of the Sexes” (1790). From 1792 to 1794, these themes would be elaborated in her regular columns, signed by the male persona “The Gleaner,” for the Massachusetts Magazine, in which she also formulated a feminized brand of patriotism suitable to the young American republic. In 1798, she collected these columns, along with poetry and plays, into a three-volume book, The Gleaner.