The Diary of Hannah Callender Sansom

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Hannah Callender Sansom (1737–1801) witnessed the effects of the tumultuous eighteenth century: political struggles, war and peace, and economic development. She experienced the pull of traditional emphases on duty, subjection, and hierarchy and the emergence of radical new ideas promoting free choice, liberty, and independence. Regarding these changes from her position as a well-educated member of the colonial Quaker elite and as a resident of Philadelphia, the principal city in North America, this assertive, outspoken woman described her life and her society in a diary kept intermittently from the time she was twenty-one years old in 1758 through the birth of her first grandchild in 1788.

As a young woman, she enjoyed sociable rounds of visits and conviviality. She also had considerable freedom to travel and to develop her interests in the arts, literature, and religion. In 1762, under pressure from her father, she married fellow Quaker Samuel Sansom. While this arranged marriage made financial and social sense, her father's plans failed to consider the emerging goals of sensibility, including free choice and emotional fulfillment in marriage. Hannah Callender Sansom's struggle to become reconciled to an unhappy marriage is related in frank terms both through daily entries and in certain silences in the record. Ultimately she did create a life of meaning centered on children, religion, and domesticity. When her beloved daughter Sarah was of marriageable age, Hannah Callender Sansom made certain that, despite risking her standing among Quakers, Sarah was able to marry for love.

Long held in private hands, the complete text of Hannah Callender Sanson's extraordinary diary is published here for the first time. In-depth interpretive essays, as well as explanatory footnotes, provide context for students and other readers. The diary is one of the earliest, fullest documents written by an American woman, and it provides fresh insights into women's experience in early America, the urban milieu of the emerging middle classes, and the culture that shaped both.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Long held in private hands, an extraordinary diary kept by Hannah Callender Sansom (1737-1801) has been published verbatim for the first time in this book, which includes in-depth interpretative essays and explanatory footnotes that provide context for readers. Sansom's diary is one of the earliest, fullest documents written by an American woman, and it yields fresh insights into women's experiences in early America, the urban milieu of the emerging middle class, and the culture that shaped both. The Diary of Hannah Callender Sansom offers readers a new look at how a woman in eighteenth-century British America lived and observed the world around her."—Pennsylvania Heritage

"Readers will certainly enjoy and learn much from this extraordinary account of an eighteenth-century Quaker woman's aspirations, beliefs and experiences in a society and culture undergoing remarkable transition. While HCS’s diary is less comprehensive than Elizabeth Drinker’s, it offers a fascinating and alternative viewpoint on the life of a middle-class Quaker woman in eighteenth-century Philadelphia. This skillfully edited journal will appeal to anyone interested in the histories of gender, the family, race, culture and the Quaker movement in the early modern Atlantic world."—Naomi Wood, Quaker Studies (March 2013)

"The Diary of Hannah Callender Sanson is truly a delightful and compelling read. Historians will be interested in Hannah Callender Sanson's comments on her work, the women and men she encounters, the many sociable conversations she describes, her life as a Quaker, and the many references to reading that pervade the diary. Susan E. Klepp and Karin Wulf both know a great deal about late eighteenth century Philadelphia and the lives of women therein, and it shows. They give readers a polished introduction to the diary and do an excellent job of succinctly establishing the necessary contexts, from married women's legal position to Quaker belief to contemporary expectations for courtship and marriage."—Mary Beth Norton, Cornell University, author of Liberty's Daughters, Founding Mothers and Fathers, and In the Devil's Snare

"Hannah Callender Sanson's diary is an important and neglected source in the history of eighteenth-century Philadelphia, in family and women's history, and in Quakerism. Susan E. Klepp and Karin Wulf bring deep learning, local knowledge, and current scholarly concerns to bear on this exciting modern edition. This book is a stirring and important contribution to our understanding of sensibility and American society in revolutionary times."—Sarah Knott, Indiana University, author of Sensibility and the American Revolution

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801475139
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/17/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xi

Abbreviations xiii

Introduction: Hannah Callender Sansom and her World 1

Part I Sociability

1 Talk, Travel, and a Couple of Murders: Hannah Callender's Sociable, Venturesome Life 27

2 The Diary: January 1758-August 1761 43

Part II Marriage and Family

3 "A New Scene of Life": Men, Women, and Familial Authority 159

4 The Diary: March 1762-November 1772 170

Interlude: Hannah Callender Sansom and a Revolutionary World 264

Part III Sensibility

5 "This man seems formed for Domestic Happiness": The Marriage of Sally and Elliston 271

6 The Diary: November 1784-October 1788 279

An Afterword 345

Index 351

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