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The Remarkable Mrs. Ripley

The Life of Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley

Joan W. Goodwin

A contemporary of Emerson, Hawthorne, the Alcotts, and other New England Renaissance figures, Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley (1793–1867) is largely unknown to today’s readers. Although she left no published works, Sarah is frequently mentioned in letters and journals written by her fellow intellectuals. She was a self-educated classical scholar who was well versed in languages and the sciences, ran a boarding school with her Unitarian minister husband to prepare boys for Harvard College, and raised seven children. Legend has it that she simultaneously rocked a cradle, shelled peas, heard one boy recite his Latin and another, his Greek. In this first biography of the remarkable Mrs. Ripley, Joan W. Goodwin draws on Sarah’s letters and the writings of her contemporaries to paint as full a picture as possible of a compelling figure known until now only as a literary footnote. Goodwin reveals the inner drama of a woman’s lonely struggle to reconcile the liberal Christian worldview with her own increasing skepticism, and her traditional domestic role with the pursuit of intellectual attainments. The author’s skillful presentation of primary materials allows Sarah to speak to the reader in her own voice, particularly through her correspondence with Mary Moody Emerson and Abigail Allyn Francis, lending insight into the anguish that shaped much of her life. In a biography as distinctive as the celebrated woman it depicts, the author re-creates the life and times of Mrs. Ripley and rescues an overlooked New Englander from obscurity. This is a captivating story that will appeal to historians and general readers alike.

Paper: $29.95
ISBN-13: 9781611680317
Pages: 424 | Size: 6.25 in. x 9.25 in.
Date Published: July 15, 2011

Reviews

  • [An] affecting portrait of an unsung heroine.

    Library Journal
  • In this fully researched scholarly biography, Goodwin makes use of letters, diaries, and other primary sources to present for the first time a complete picture of this extraordinary woman's life, which will appeal to historians, feminists, and other readers of detailed biography.

    Booklist

About the Author

Joan Goodwin

Joan W. Goodwin (1926–2006) was an independent scholar who worked for several years for the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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