Elizabeth Graeme Ferguson

(1737—1801) poet and letter writer in America

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(1737–1801), poet who presided over the most distinguished intellectual salon in British America. Born in Philadelphia to Anne Diggs and Dr. Thomas Graeme, Elizabeth Graeme was trained at home by her father, an adherent to the doctrines of the Scottish enlightenment. By age fifteen, she could write passable Latin, converse in French and German, argue theology and philosophy, and extemporize English couplets. In 1757, she accepted a proposal of marriage from William Franklin, the son of Benjamin Franklin. Her courtship was captured in a verse exchange with Franklin. In 1759, the romance unraveled when young Franklin's affections wandered during a trip to England. She responsed by immersing herself in society and organizing her literary acquaintances into a salon, based on the French model that met weekly. Its membership included Jacob Duché, Hannah Griffitts, Nathaniel Evans, Annis Stockton, Thomas Coombe, William and Mary Smith, her sister Anna Stedman, her niece Anna Young Smith, Benjamin Rush, and Francis Hopkinson—the most talented aggregation of writers to form in colonial America.


From The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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