Catharine Maria Sedgwick

Excerpt from the book
"A Sedgwick Genealogy: Descendants of Deacon Benjamin Sedgwick"
Compiled by Hubert M. Sedgwick
Published by the New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1961
Copies available from the Society at 114 Whitney Ave New Haven CT 06510

Catharine Maria Sedgwick, 9th child of Judge Theodore Sedgwick (B4) and Pamela (Dwight) Sedgwick, was born December 28, 1789 at Stockbridge, Mass., in the house which her father had built four years before and which has since been historic. She remained single and died at the residence of her nephew, William Minot, Jr., at West Roxbury, Mass., July 31, 1867. She was buried at Stockbridge August 2, 1867. The funeral services were at the Episcopal Church and the remains were followed to the grave by many hundred loving friends and neighbors. A procession of young girls in white, bearing flowers, followed the hearse which near the grave passed under an arch of flowers, whereon was inscribed in floral letters "Blessed are the pure in heart."

Miss Sedgwick was the very first noted female writer in the United States. In 1822, when writing what was intended to be a religious tract, she found that it expanded into A NEW ENGLAND TALE, which on publication obtained instant success. REDWOOD, published in 1824, was soon translated into several European languages. HOPE LESLIE or EARLY TIMES IN AMERICA (1827) was even more popular than the two former. The merit of these stories was their vivid presentation of the peculiar features of New England country life and scenery. To these she added CLARENCE (1830) and LYNWOOD (1835), a tale of the Revolution.

Many moral tales and books for children were the product of her pen and enjoyed wide celebrity. All her writings are pervaded with morality and at the time of her death she retained her hold on the American public as one of its gifted and purist writers. Her books have stood the test of time and many of them were as popular and as much in demand with later generations as with her own. Her LIFE AND LETTERS, edited by Miss Mary E. Dewey, shows the same cheerful, home-loving disposition which breathes from all her books.

She is said to have refused more offers of marriage than almost any other woman of her time. They were made by statesmen, leaders in the field of art and music and men in the business world. She felt that she should devote her life to writing and to her place as a center of the world in which she lived at that time, Stockbridge, in reality a national literary and political shrine, as she was a national figure.

Miss Dewey's book portrays the beautiful home at the Sedgwick mansion in its earliest years and described it as a meeting place of the statesmen and the intellectual men and women of the first decade of the Republic.

Nathalie Sedgwick, in books and magazine articles, Rachel Field in ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO, and many others have written of that period of Stockbridge and of the Sedgwicks.

Dr. James Jackson Minot of Boston points out in his book ANCESTORS AND DESCENDANTS OF GEORGE RICHARDS MINOT, 1758-1802, that Miss Catharine Sedgwick lived at the home of William Minot, 1817-1894, at Woodbourne, Mass., and was known as "Aunt Kitty".

Miss Sedgwick was the last surviving child of Judge Theodore Sedgwick of Stockbridge.

Note: Mrs. Katharine Mary Channing (B4A,131) points out that Miss Sedgwick spelled her first name as "Catharine". This is attested by her letters, which were edited by Miss Dewey, yet Charles, Catharine's brother, spelled the name "Catherine" consistently. Her brother Robert uses the spelling "Catharine," which has been accepted by most encyclopedias. (HMS)