Martha Laurens Ramsay

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Martha Laurens
Martha Laurens Ramsay.jpg
Martha Laurens; portrait by John Wollaston circa 1767
Born (1759-11-03)November 3, 1759
Charleston, Province of South Carolina
Spouse(s) David Ramsay (m. 1787; b. 1749 – d. 1815)

Henry Laurens (father; b. 1724 – d. 1792)

John Laurens (brother; b. 1754 – d. 1782)

Eleanor Ball (mother; b. 1724 – d. 1770)

Henry Laurens, Jr. (brother; 1763 – d. 1821)

James Laurens (brother; b. 1765 – d. 1775)

Mary Eleanor Laurens Pinckney (sister; b. 1770 – d. 1794)

Frances Eleanor Laurens (niece; b. 1777 – d. 1860)

Martha Laurens Ramsay, (November 3, 1759 – June 10, 1811) was an eighteenth-century woman from Charleston, South Carolina in the United States whose diary and private letters were published by her husband, David Ramsay, under the title "Memoirs of the Life of Martha Laurens Ramsay" six weeks after her death.[1] The daughter of Henry Laurens, president of the United States Continental Congress and the third wife of politician, historian and physician David Ramsay, her papers chronicle the life of an educated privileged Southern woman during the American Revolution and the founding of the nation.[2][3][4]


Martha Laurens was able to read by age 3.[5]

While her father was serving on a diplomatic mission in England during the American Revolution, he was captured and imprisoned. In 1770 her mother died, and Martha was sent to live with her uncle, James Laurens. She took it upon herself to take responsibility for the "kins-keeping" of the Laurens family; she adopted a niece. In 1775, Martha moved to England with her uncle and his family. However, when the politics became overwhelming, they moved to France. This European sojourn most likely is the reason why Martha’s letters reflect so little on the struggles of the Americans during the American Revolution.[6]

In 1782, Martha's father joined her and the rest of the family in France after his release from prison. Martha spent 1783 and 1784 with her father, assisting him with a cure for his gout

In 1784, she sailed back to Charleston, where she met her father's physician, David Ramsay.[5] Martha and David Ramsay, a prominent physician, married. He also was the author of the first history of South Carolina in the American Revolution.[6] David Ramsay brought financial hardship to the family; Martha's faith was tested, leading her to a sense of religious resignation.[7]

Martha Laurens Ramsay died in 1811 in her hometown of Charleston at the age of 51. She was buried in the congregational churchyard.


Martha Laurens Ramsay and David Ramsay had 11 children within 16 years but only 8 survived childhood. Their children were Eleanor Henry Laurens (1782), Martha H.L. (1789), Frances H.L. (1790), Katharine H.L. (1792), Sabine Elliot (1794), David (1795), Jane Montgomery (1796), James (1797), and 2nd Jane Montgomery (1802). [5]


  1. ^ Gillespie, Joanna Bowen. The Life and Times of Martha Laurens Ramsay,1759-1811. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.
  2. ^ Gillespie, Joanna Bowen. "1795: Martha Laurens Ramsay's "Dark Night of the Soul" The William and Mary Quarterly Third Series, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Jan., 1991), pp. 68-92 Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
  3. ^ Gillespie, Joanna Bowen. "Many Gracious Providences: The Religious Cosmos of Martha Laurens Ramsay".(1759-1811). COLBY LIBRARY QUARTERLY XXV (Sp. Issue: WOMEN AND RELIGION) #3, September 1989, 199-212.
  4. ^ Middleton, Margaret Simons . "David and Martha Laurens Ramsay" Carlton Press, 1971.
  5. ^ a b c Sarudy, Barbara Wells (2014-09-15). "18C American Women: South Carolina's Martha Laurens Ramsay (1759-1811) - the exemplar for Republican Motherhood". 18C American Women. Retrieved 2016-04-06. 
  6. ^ a b Murray, Gail (2002-04-01). "Review of Gillespie, Joanna Bowen, The Life and Times of Martha Laurens Ramsay, 1759-1811". Retrieved 2016-04-06. 
  7. ^ ""The Life and Times of Martha Laurens Ramsay, 1759-1811" by Shattuck, Gardiner H., Jr. - Anglican and Episcopal History, Vol. 72, Issue 2, June 2003 | Online Research Library: Questia". Retrieved 2016-04-06.