Author Information

Mary Hughes


The political and social upheaval of 18th century America is well documented in the writings of many great thinkers of that time. As the Age of Enlightenment stirred debate in many quarters, causing men like Thomas Jefferson to ponder the merits of equality among men, so too did it inspire women to question their own status in an emerging American culture. A little-known writer named Judith Sargent Murray emerged as an early contributor to the discussions of the role women in a changing society. The Sargent family’s openness to the study of a progressive faith, Universalism, and rejection of status quo Calvinism influenced the notion of equality upon which Judith developed her personal philosophy in regard to education, marriage and the role of women in American society. Judith Sargent Murray’s well reasoned and impassioned Revolutionary Era arguments for marital equality, acknowledgement of the female intellect and access to educational opportunity for women in both “On the Equality of the Sexes” and The Gleaner reflect an early feminist philosophy rooted in her embrace of liberal Universalist theology as well as her resentment at being deprived an education. Judith Sargent Murray’s willingness to question gender constructs in her writings, both private and public, reflect the ideals of the Enlightenment and reveal her uniquely American perspective on gender inequity based upon both her personal life experiences and her vision for the emerging American society.

Note on the Author

Mary Huhes is an English major with a Secondary Education concentration. This essay was completed as coursework in Dr. Ann Brunjes’s Early American Literature class.

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