Judith Sargent Murray (1751–1820) was an early American advocate for women's rights, an essayist, playwright, poet, and letter writer. She was one of the first American proponents of the idea of the equality of the sexes—that women, like men, had the capability of intellectual accomplishment and should be able to achieve economic independence. Her landmark essay "On the Equality of the Sexes," published in the Massachusetts Magazine in March and April 1790 predated Mary Wollstonecraft 's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which was published in Britain in 1792 and in Philadelphia in 1794.
Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) was an United States feminist essayist, playwright, poet, and letter-writer.
Murray was one of the first American proponents of the idea of equality of the sexes; that women had the capability for intellectual accomplishment and economic independence just as much as men. Primarily self-taught, she believed that with equal education, women's accomplishments would equal men's, and that the most important factor in giving young women the power to succeed was education. A student of history herself, Murray believed that the study of the history of women's struggles and accomplishments was important for women to fulfill their potential and become fully-empowered members of society. Her work On the Equality of the Sexes stirred some controversy for its failure to affirm the Biblical assertions of women's inferiority.
Murray often wrote either anonymously or under assumed names (particularly a male persona called "The Gleaner") so that others would read her ideas without dismissing them for coming from a woman. Her 1798 book of essays, entitled The Gleaner, established her as a serious author and advocate of women's equality; the book was purchased by such figures as George Washington, John Adams, Henry Knox, and Mercy Otis Warren.
At the age of twenty-three, Murray began making copies of nearly all her correspondence in order to keep historical records. Today approximately 2,500 survive and are being published in letter-books for the benefit of scholars; they make up one of the few collections of writings by a woman that survives from this period in American history.
Murray, who became a Universalist early in life, had a strong influence on the Universalist religion's treatment of women through her second husband, John Murray, who brought the religion to the United States fom England; much of the Universalist position on women's equality comes from her ideas. (The widow of John Stevens Jr, she remarried in 1788.) Murray bore one daughter, Julia Maria, in 1791, and had adopted her orphaned niece as well as a maternal cousin; she had in 1789 borne a son named Fitz Winthrop who died the same day. True to her convictions about the importance of education, she was a dedicated teacher to her children as well as the children of other family and friends.
- Some Deductions from the System Promulgated in the Page of Divine Revelation: Ranged in the Order and Form of a Catechism Intended as an Assistant to the Christian Parent or Teacher (published anonymously, 1782)
- The Gleaner: A Miscellaneous Production. (1798)
- A Universalist Catechism (1782)
- Desultory Thoughts upon the Utility of Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency, Especially in Female Bosoms (1784)
- On the Equality of the Sexes (1790)
- On the Domestic Education of Children (1790)
- The Repository (1792-1794)
- The Reaper (1794)