Meet Judith Sargent Stevens Murray

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by zabelle on October 4, 2012

The Sargent House Museum was not included in my tour of Gloucester but of course, when I was planning the trip, my friend Joe mentioned that there was a connection to John Singer Sargent. He has never been able to visit the house since it has very limited opening hours. I felt I owned it to him and myself to try to squeeze in a visit. I am so glad that I did.

The house is located between Middle Street and Main Street. It has no designated parking. Main Street has metered parking and we were able to find a spot very close by. There are also public parking lots within an easy walk.

When arriving from Main Street, there is a very steep climb, this is not for the weak of knees or for anyone with any difficulty walking. Middle Street requires no climbing; however the house itself is not handicap accessible.
Once inside, you will take a guided tour, you are not allowed to tour on your own. That is not a bad thing. We had a delightful guide who was very knowledgeable about the house but more importantly about Judith Sargent Stevens Murray. How she has stayed below the radar of most Americans is quite a mystery. She was an amazing woman in a time when the majority of women were uneducated or had a very rudimentary education. Her education was not formal. She managed to learn on her own and her brother held her knowledge in high esteem.

How high is evident in the fact that when he needed to educate his son for his college entrance exam for Harvard, he gave his education to his sister.

She became interested in the new Universalist beliefs which resulted in problems with the religious establishment in Gloucester. It was through this new religion that she became acquainted with John Murray who would become her second husband. He is considered the founder of Universalism in the United States.
Much of her writing has survived and among other things she was the first American to have a play produced in Boston, was a strong advocate for the rights of women in the late 18th century and was the first woman to self-publish a book.

A visit to the house will bring you all this information and a whole lot more. You will see the tiny closet where she did her writing, walk through the rooms where she lived and come to appreciate what a truly special woman she was. I highly recommend that you try to visit here if you are in Gloucester.

The house is open weekends, Memorial Day through Labor Day. For more information visit their website at

Sargent House Museum
49 Middle Street
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 01930
(978) 281-2432

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