Sarah Kemble Knight

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sarah Kemble Knight (April 19, 1666 – September 25, 1727) was a teacher and businesswoman, who is remembered for her diary of a journey from Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, to New York City, Province of New York, in 1704–1705, a courageous adventure for a woman to undertake.


She was born in Boston to Captain Thomas Kemble and Elizabeth Trerice.[1] Her father was a merchant of Boston. In 1689, Sarah married Richard Knight. They had one child, Elizabeth. Richard died about 1703. Having been left a widow, in middle life (1706) she opened a school, which gained some reputation in Boston and included amongst its students Benjamin Franklin. She is described as “excelling in the art of teaching composition.”[2] Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola speculates that this “writing school attended by Benjamin Franklin is more likely rumor than fact.”[3]

In 1713, Knight's daughter married John Livingston, of Connecticut, and Madam Knight moved with them to New London, where she continued her business and land dealings.[1] Madam Knight, as she was generally called as a mark of respect,[2] spent the rest of her life either in New London or Norwich, Connecticut. She owned several farms in New London, and had a home in Norwich. She ran an inn out of the Livingston farm in New London.[4] In 1718 the Norwich town record says she was “taxed twenty shillings for selling strong drink to the Indians,” but it adds “Madam Knight accuses her maid, Ann Clark, of the fact.”[2][5] When she died in 1727, she left her daughter a large estate,[1] “attesting to her shrewdness and skill as a businessperson.”[6]

Sarah Kemble Knight is buried at Ye Antientist Burial Ground, New London.[citation needed]

Journey from Boston to New York[edit]

Before opening her school, Madam Knight in 1704 took a journey on horseback from Boston to New York City, an unparalleled feat for a woman. She recounted her experiences in the “journals” that have made her known to students of American colonial literature and history. The small diary of her Boston–New York journey was first published, posthumously, in 1825, by Theodore Dwight. The Journal of Madam Knight has subsequently been reprinted by others with additional biographical information.[7]

Her journal remains noteworthy both for its larger-than-life central character (Knight) and its telling of a trying journey not normally undertaken by a woman.[8] The discomforts of primitive traveling are described with much sprightliness and not a little humor.[7] The journal is valuable as a history of the manners and customs of the time, and is full of graphic descriptions of the early settlements in New England and New York.[2] At the same time, it is interesting for its original orthography and interspersed rhymes.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Sidney Gunn (1933). "Knight, Sarah Kemble". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  2. ^ a b c d Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1892). "Knight, Sarah". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  3. ^ "‘Wee made Good speed along’". History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Geraldine Brooks (1900). Dames and daughters of colonial days. T.Y. Crowell & Co. p. 100. 
  5. ^ Frances Manwaring Caulkins (1852). History of New London, Connecticut. p. 372. 
  6. ^ "Unit 3: Utopian Promise; Authors: Sarah Kemble Knight (1666-1727)". American Passages: A Literary Survey. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  7. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "Knight, Sarah Kemble". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 
  8. ^ Waisman, Charlotte S.; Tietjen, Jill S. (2008). Her Story. Collins. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-06-124651-7. 
  9. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Knight, Sarah Kemble". Encyclopedia Americana. 

External links[edit]