Elizabeth Gurney Fry.

Women of worth : a book for girls online

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As when the night its highest noon attains,
And not a cloud o'ercasts the blue serene,

The stars diffused through all the ethereal plain*,
And all arrayed in living light are seen.;

80 in this night of time -what patterns rise,

Rich in celestial lustres to adorn
And bless our world, till from those lower skies

Shine the full glories of that promised morn,

"When Jesns rising, like the orient sun
Shall drown these stars in his superior rays,

And all these saints, their race nocturnal run,
Alone on his unrivalled beauties gaze.

But till this day shall break, how much we ow*

To those divine examples that illume
Oar tourney through this vale of sin and e>

Direct our steps and half dispel our gloom.

Ye fair, heaven's kindest, noblest gift to man,
Adorned with every charm and every grace,

The flame your forms inspire let virtue fan,
And let the mind be lovelier than the face.

Daughters of Eve, or In your silver hairs,
Or flourishing in youth's auspicious bloom,

The soul, the immortal soul, demands your cares;
Oh live as heirs of endless life to come!

Well weigh your various characters, fulfil
All your relations both to God and man,

Press to be perfect, high, mount higher still ;
f!rown, crowd with blessings your contracted spta.


" 'So, Flaxmnn," said the President one day, as he chanced to meet him, 'I am told yon nre mar
ried ; if so, sir, 1 tell yon you are ruined for an artist.' Flaiman went home, sat down beside his wife, took
her hand, and said, with a smile, I am ruined for an nrtist.' ' John, ' raid she, how has this happened,
and who haa done it !' ' It happened,' said he, ' in the church, and Ann Penman has done it ; I met Sir
Joshua Reynolds just now, and he said marriage had ruined me in my profession."' PAGE 964.


I !

.7 A M K. S C3- . G- K K G- O K Y .




Mary Washington, the Illustrious Matron 9

Martha Washington, the True Wife 22

Charlotte BronUS, the Worthy Daughter 27

Elizabeth Fry, the Newgate School-Mistress 58

Sarah Martin, the Jail Missionary 76

Margaret Mercer, the Worker of Charity 94

Sarah Boardman Judson, the Teacher in the Wilds 106

Lady Russell, the Noble Dame 121

Lucy Ilutcliinson, the Pattern of Domestic Virtue 132

Isabel the Catholic, the Friend of Columbus 139

Mrs. Elizabeth Rowe, the Earnest Christian 176

Maria Theresa, the Star of Austria 185

Madame Oberlin, the Pastor's Helpmate 193

Ann Letitia Barbauld, the Children's Favorite 199

Rebecca Motte, the Devoted Patriot 226

Madame Keeker, the Estimable Governess 231

Caroline L. Horechel, the Patient Astronomer 237

Hannah More, the Quiet Reformer 242

Ann Flaxman, the Sculptor's Assistant 263

Mrs. Wordsworth, the Poet'a Companion 267

Harriet Newell, the Christian Heroine 272

Sarah Lanman Smith, the Missionary's Wife 277

Lady Warwick, the laborer in the Vineyard, 283

Lady Mackintosh, the Guardian Angel 300



John Flaxman ruined for an Artist. Frontispiece.
Elizabeth Fry Reading to the Newgate Prisoners. Vig-
nette Title.

The "Worthy Daughter, Charlotte Bronte" 44

Sarah Martin and her Jail Congregation 84

Sarah Judson and the Burmese Freebooters 113

Columbus Returns from the "New "World" 166

Madeleine Oberlin Visiting the Sick 198

Sir "William Herschel's Astronomical Assistant. . . 240



' It Is tbc divinest thing to be good." JOHN FOATCB.
"Goodness Is beauty In Its best estate." MARLOWE.
" The true mark of a good heart, is Its capacity for loving."


THE following Biographical Sketches form, it is
bdicvi-cl, :i book which a woman of any age may
take up with pleasure and profit; while to the
young it may bo of unformed character the
work is calculated to be more specially useful, in
r as it serves to show how those who were of
"The Excellent of the Earth" walked amongst us.

After a careful examination of the numerous
books which treat of the lives and works of notable
\\oniiii, it may !>< sufficient to remark that if the
editor of the present volume has made even an
approach to the standard kept in view, this pub-
lication will be found to present elenu'tits of ehar-
and examples of action in a manner likely to
t wholesome influence while it possesses a
distinctive t<>m>.

In conjunction with this pervading spirit it has
been an object to combine in one cheap volume,


brief, graphic, and suggestive sketches, not only of
those already famous in the annals of female worth,
but of those whose li ves, from having been spent in
the midst of us, or at least within the memory of a
still-existing generation, have thus, to some extent,
been overlooked in previous collections of a some-
what similar character. The aim has therefore been
to record "deeds which should not pass away, and
names that must not wither."

With respect to the materials of which the book
is composed a few words are necessary. The more
lengthy sketches are original, enriched by a little
fresh information from private sources. Of the
shorter lives, the majority are taken from the third
era of Sarah Josepha Hale's "Records of Women."*
The interesting account of the labors of Sarah Mar-
tin is gathered from the pages of the " Edinburgh
Review ;" and the sketch of Mrs. Elizabeth Rowe
is derived from Miss Kavanagh's "Women of

Every life here given has at least its one phase
of excellence ; but not a few of them are worthy of
contemplation under many aspects, and of imitation
in several ways. In all we see blended the fruits
of that labor, patience, truth, trust, and love which
are the crown and glory of woman.

There are not here many names of the great and

Woman's Record ; or Sketches of all Distinguished Women from
the Creation to A. D. 1854. By Sarah Josepha Hale. New York : Har- .
per Brothers.


titled. All honor to those who, with all the weak-
Mae of our common humanity, have borne meekly
and bravely the trials of prosperity and high sta-
tion: the full cup needs a steady hand. It has
rather been designed to draw lessons from more
commonplace people, and to show something of the
poetry and charm of every-day life from a notion
that thereby the book will be more impressive to
the majority of readers. Perhaps it may serve to
soothe, encourage, and sustain, as well as to warn
and guide. For, as good old Jeremy Taylor has
well put it, good books, and the examples of good
lives, are amongst the thousands of excellent arts
which it has pleased God to use to win us.

It is no doubt often a difficult matter for an en-
thusiastic young woman to settle into the harness
of every-day life. It seems so easy and so fine to
act gracefully or grandly upon grand occasions,
amongst people who are to one's taste. It is often
very hard for a time (we use the words of a piquant
and thoughtful writer) to learn that "fellow-mor-
tals, every one, must be accepted as they are : you
can neither straighten their noses, nor brighten
their wit, nor rectify their dispositions ; and it is
these people amongst whom your life is passed
that it is needful you should tolerate, pity, and
love ; it is these more or less ugly, stupid, incon-
sistent people whose movements of goodness you
should be able to admire for whom you should
all possible hopes, all possible patience.
In this world there are so many of these


common, coarse people, who have no picturesque
sentimental wretchedness! It is so needful we
should remember their existence, else we may
happen to leave them quite out of our religion and
philanthropy, and frame lofty ideas which only fit

a world of extremes There are few

prophets in the world; few sublimely beautiful
women ; few heroes. I can't afford to give all my
love and reverence to such rarities : I want a great
deal of those feelings for my every-day fellows, es-
pecially for the few in the foreground of the great
multitude, whose faces I know, whose hands I
touch, for whom I have to make way with kindly

And so it will be a good thing if this gathering
of exemplary lives will teach some to study to be
kind, and others to be quiet, and all to be cheerfuL





TIIK mother of George Washington, the hero of
the American revolutionary Avar, and the first
president of the United States, claims the noblest
ili-tiiu lion a woman should covet or can gain, that
of training her gifted son in the way he should go,
and inspiring him by her example to make the way
of goodne<- hi> ]>ath to glory.*

Krs. Mary Washington was descended from the

very n-spcctalile family of Ball, who settled as

Ku;_'Ii-h c<>l<im>ts on the banks of the Potomac.

; in tlmse domestic and independent habits

which graced the Virginia matrons in the old days

of Virginia, this lady, by the death of her husband,

"!' involved in the cares of a youn^ family, at

a ju-r' - vhcn those cares seem more especially to

TbU b. ..phy WM writUn bjr George W. P. CuitU, grandson of
Mr*. MwlUa Wlln k 'tn.


claim the aid and control of the stronger sex. It
was left for this eminent woman, by a method the
most rare, by an education and discipline the most
peculiar and imposing, to form in the youth-time
of her son those great and essential qualities which
gave lustre to the glories of his after-life. If the
school savored the more of the Spartan than the
Persian character, it was a fitter school to form a
hero, destined to be the ornament of the age in
which he flourished, and a standard of excellence
for ages yet to come.

It Avas remarked by the ancients, that the mother
always gave the tone to the character of the child ;
and we may be permitted to say that, since the
days of old renown, a mother has not lived better
fitted to give the tone and character of real great-
ness to her child, than she whose remarkable life
and actions this reminiscence will endeavor to illus-

At the tune of his father's death, George Wash-
ington was only ten years of age. He has been
heard to say that he knew little of his father,
except the remembrance of his person, and of his
parental fondness. To his mother's forming care
he himself ascribed the origin of his fortunes and
his fame.

The home of Mrs. Washington, of which she was
always mistress, was a pattern of order. There
the levity and indulgence common to youth were
tempered by a deference and well-regulated re-
straint, which, while it neither suppressed nor con-


dcmned any rational enjoyment usual in the spring-
time of lite, jire-iTilied those enjoyments within
tin- bounds of moderation and propriety. Thus
tlu- chief was taught the duty of obedience, which
prepared him to command. Still the mother held
in reserve an authority which never departed from
her, even when her son had become the most illus-
trious of men. It seemed to say, "I am your
mother, the being who gave you life, the guide
who directed your steps when they needed a guar-
dian ; my maternal affection drew forth your love ;
my authority constrained your spirit ; whatever
may be your success or your renown, next to your
God, your reverence is due to me." Nor did the
ehief <lis-i-iit from these truths; but to the last
niiiineiits of his venerable parent, yielded to her
will the most dutiful and implicit obedience, and
felt for her person and character the highest re-
spect, and the most enthusiastic attachment.

Such were the domestic influences under which
the mind of Washington was formed; and that he
not only profited by, but fully appreciated their
!Ieneo and the character of his mother, his
Ir-havior toward her at all times testified. Upon
his appointment to the command-in-chief of the
American armies, previously to his joining the
forces at Cambridge, he removed his mother from
her country residence to the village of Fredericks-
burg, a situation remote from danger, and contig-
uous to her friends and relatives.

It was there the matron remained during nearly


the whole of the trying period of the revolution.
Directly in the way of the news, as it passed from
north to south, one courier would bring intelligence
of success to our arms ; another, " swiftly coursing
at his heels," the saddening reverse of disaster
and defeat. While thus ebbed and flowed the for-
tunes of our cause, the mother, trusting to the
wisdom and protection of divine providence, pre-
served the even tenor of her life ; affording an
example to those matrons whose sons were alike
engaged in the arduous contest ; and showing that
unavailing anxieties, however belonging to nature,
were unworthy of mothers whose sons were com-
bating for the inestimable rights of man, and the
freedom and happiness of the world.

When the comforting and glorious intelligence
arrived of the passage of the Delaware (December,
1776), an event which restored our hopes from
the very brink of despair, a number of her friends
waited upon the mother with congratulations. She
received them with calmness, observed that it was
most pleasurable news, and that George appeared
to have deserved well of his country for such sig-
nal services ; and continued, in reply to the gratu-
lating patriots (most of whom held letters in their
hands, from which they read extracts): "But, my
good sirs, here is too much flattery still George
will not forget the lessons I early taught him he
will not forget himself \ though he is the subject
of so much praise."

During the war, and indeed during her useful


life, up to tin- advanced age of eighty-two, until
within tlin-.- years of her death (when an afflictive
di-ea-e prevented exertion), the mother set a most
valuable example in the management of her domes-
nis, carrying her own keys, bulling in
her hou.Nclmld aiVairs, providing for her family, :ui<l
living and moving in all the pride of independence.
She was not actuated by that ambition for show
which pervades lesser minds ; and the peculiar
plainness and dignity of her manners became in
nowi>e altered, when the sun of glory arose upon
her house. There are some of the aged inhabit-
ants of Fredcricksburg who well remember the
matron, as seated in an old-fashioned open chaise,
she was in the habit of visiting, almost daily,
her little farm in the vicinity of the town
When there, she would ride about her fields,
giving her orders, and seeing that they were

Her great indu>lry, with the well-regulated econ-
omy of all her concerns, enabled the matron to dis-
PCIIM- considerable charities to the poor, although
her own circumstances were always far from rich.
All manner of domestic economies, so useful in
tho-e times of privation and trouble, met her zeal-
ous attention ; while every thing about her house-
hold bore marks of her care and management, and
many things the impress of her o\vn hands.
In a very humble dwelling, and sallcring under an
excruciating disease (cancer of the brea-t), thus
lived this mother of the first of men, preserving,


unchanged, her peculiar nobleness and independ-
ence of character.

She was always pious, but in her latter days her
devotions were performed in private. She was in
the habit of repairing every day to a secluded spot,
formed by rocks and trees, near her dwelling,
where, abstracted from the world and worldly
things, she communed with her Creator, in humil-
iation and prayer.

After an absence of nearly seven years, it was at
length, on the return of the combined armies from
Yorktown, permitted to the mother again to see
and embrace her illustrious son. So soon as he
had dismounted, in the midst of a numerous and
brilliant suite, he sent to apprise her of his arrival
and to know when it would be her pleasure to
receive him. And now mark the force of early
education and habits, and the superiority of the
Spartan over the Persian school, in this interview
of the great Washington with his admirable parent
and instructor. No pageantry of war proclaimed
his coming, no trumpets sounded, no banners
waved. Alone and on foot, the marshal of France,
the general-in-chief of the combined armies of
France and America, the deliverer of his country,
the hero of the age, repaired to pay his humble
duty to her whom he venerated as the author of
his being, the founder of his fortune and his fame.
For full well he knew that the matron would not
be moved by all the pride that glory ever gave, nor
by all the " pomp and circumstance" of power.


The lady was alone, her aged hands employed in
the works of domestic industry, when the good
news was announced ; and it was further told that
the victor chief was in waiting at the threshold.
She welcomed him with a warm embrace, and by
the well-remembered and endearing name of his
childhood; iiKjniring as to his health, she remarked
the lines which mighty cares and many trials had
made on his manly countenance, spoke much of old
times and old friends, but of his glory not one

Meantime, in the village of Frederieksburg, all
was joy and revelry ; the town was crowded with
the officers of the French and American armies,
and with gentlemen from all the country around,
who hastened to welcome the conquerors of Corn-
wallis. The citizens made arrangements for a
splendid ball, to which the mother of Washington
was specially invited. She observed that, although
her dancing days were pretty wdl over, she should
feel happy in contributing to the general festivity,
and consented to attend.

The foreign officers were anxious to sec the
mother of their chief. They had heard indistinct
rumors respecting her remarkable life and charac-
ter; but, forming their judgments from European
examples, they were prepared *to expect in the
mother that glare and show which would, have
been attached to the parents of the great in the
old world. How were they surprised when the
matron, leaning on the arm of her son, entered the


room! She was arrayed in the very plain, yet
becoming garb worn by the Virginia lady of the
olden time. Her address, always dignified and im-
posing, was courteous, though reserved. She re-
ceived the complimentary attentions', which were
profusely paid her, without evincing the slightest
elevation ; and, at an early hour, .wishing the com-
pany much enjoyment of their pleasures, observing
that it was time for old people to be at home, re-

The foreign officers were amazed to behold one
whom so many causes contributed to elevate, pre-
serving the even tenor of her life, while such a
blaze of glory shone upon her name and offspring.
The European world furnished no examples of such
magnanimity. Names of ancient lore were heard
to escape from their lips ; and they observed that,
" if such were the matrons of America, it was not
wonderful the sons were illustrious."

It was on this festive occasion that General
Washington danced a minuet with Mrs. Willis. It
closed his dancing days. The minuet was much
in vogue at that period, and was peculiarly calcu-
lated for the display of the splendid figure of the
chief, and his natural grace and elegance of air
and manner. The gallant Frenchmen who were
present, of which'fine people it may be said that
dancipg forms one of the elements of their exist-
ence, so much admired the American performance,
as to admit that a Parisian education could not
have improved it. As the evening advanced, the


commander-in-chicf, yielding to the gayety of the
scene, went down some dozen couple in the contra-
dance, with great spirit ami satisfaction.

The Marquis do Lafayette repaired to Fred-
erieksburg, previous to his departure for Europe,
in the fall of 1784, to pay his parting respects to
the mother, and to ask her blessing.

Conducted by one of her grandsons, he approach-
ed tin- hoii-. 1 . when the young gentleman observed,
'There, sir, is my grandmother." Lafayette be-
held, working in the garden, elal in domestie-7iiade
clothes, and her gray head covered in a plain straw
hat, the mother of "his hero!" The lady saluted
him kindly, observing: "Ah, marquis ! you see an
old woman but come, I can make you welcome
to my poor dwelling, without the parade of chang-
ing my dress."

The marquis spoke of the happy effects of the
it ion, and the goodly prospect which opened
upon independent America ; stated his <peedy de-
parture for his native land; paid the tribute of his
la-art, his love and admiration of her illustrious
son; and concluded by asking her blessing. She
d him ; and to the encomiums which he had
.avi^hcd upon his hero and paternal chief, the ma-
replied in these words: "I am m>t >upri-ed
at what George has done, for he was always a very
good bo\

In her person, Mrs. Washington was of the mid-
i/.e, ami finely formed ; her features pleasing,
yet strongly marked. It is not the happiness of


the writer to remember her, having only seen her
with infant eyes. The sister of the chief he per-
fectly well remembers. She was a most majestic
woman, and so strikingly like the brother, that it
was a matter of frolic to throw a cloak around her,
and place a military hat upon her head ; and, such
was the perfect resemblance, that, had she appear-
ed on her brother's steed, battalions would have
presented arms, and senates risen to do homage to
the chief.

In her latter days, the mother often spoke of
her own good boy / of the merits of his early life ;
of his love and dutifulness to herself; but of the
deliverer of his country, the chief magistrate of the
great republic, she never spoke. Call you this in-
sensibility ? or want of ambition? Oh, no I her
ambition had been gratified to overflowing. She
had taught him to be good ; that he became great
when the opportunity presented, was a consequence,
not a cause.

Mrs. Washington died at the age of eighty-
seven, soon after the decease of her illustrious son.
She was buried at Fredericksburg, and for many
years her grave remained without a memorial-
stone. But the heart of the nation acknowledged
her worth, and the noble spirit of her native Vir-
ginia was at length aroused to the sacred duty of
perpetuating its respect for the merits of its most
worthy daughter. On the seventh of May, 1833,
at Fredericksburg, the corner-stone of her monu-
ment was laid by Andrew Jackson, then the Presi-


dent of the United States. The public officers of
the general government, and an immense con-
course of people from every section of the country,
crowd i-d to u itness the imposing ceremonies. Mr.
IJanvtt. one of the monument committee of Vir-
ginio, delivered the eulogy on Mrs. Washington,
:ind then addressed the President of the United

-;. In his reply, General Jackson paid a beau-
tiful tribute to the memory of the deceased, which,
for its masterly exposition of the effect of mater-
nal example, and of the importance of female in-
fluence, deserves to be preserved. We give a few

" In tracing the recollections which can be
gathered of her principles and conduct, it is im-
possible to avoid the conviction, that these were

iy interwoven with the destiny of her son.
The great points of his character are before the
world. He who runs may read them in his whole

r, as a citizen, a soldier, a magistrate. He
possessed an unerring judgment, if that term can
be applied to human nature ; great probity of pur-
pose, high moral principles, perfect self-possession,
untiring application, an inquiring mind, seeking in-
formation from every quarter, and arriving at its
conclusion"; with a full knowledge of the subject;
and he added to these an inflexibility of resolution,
which nothing could change but a conviction of
error. Look back at the life and conduct of his
mother, and at her domestic government, and they
will be found admirably adapted to form and de-


velop the elements of such a character. The power
of greatness was there ; but had it not been guided
and directed by maternal solicitude and judgment,
its possessor, instead of presenting to the world
examples of virtue, patriotism, and wisdom, which
will be precious in all succeeding ages, might have
added to the number of those master-spirits, whose

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Online LibraryElizabeth Gurney FryWomen of worth : a book for girls → online text (page 1 of 18)