Mary Sarah Bilder

Jun 15, 2022

Female Genius

Eliza Harriot and George Washington at the Dawn of the Constitution

University of Virginia Press 2022

In Female Genius: Eliza Harriot and George Washington at the Dawn of the Constitution (U Virginia Press, 2022), Mary Sarah Bilder looks to the 1780s—the Age of the Constitution—to investigate the rise of a radical new idea in the English-speaking world: female genius. Bilder finds the perfect exemplar of this phenomenon in English-born Eliza Harriot Barons O’Connor. This pathbreaking female educator delivered a University of Pennsylvania lecture attended by George Washington as he and other Constitutional Convention delegates gathered in Philadelphia. As the first such public female lecturer, her courageous performance likely inspired the gender-neutral language of the Constitution.

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