Maria W. Stewart

The collection of essays and speeches I read calls Stewart America’s First Black Woman Political Writer. Maria W. Stewart published her first piece in Garrisson’s The Liberator in October 1831, ten years before Frederick Douglass met Garrisson and gave his first abolitionist speech, and 12 years before Sojourner Truth (older than Stewart by a few years) began her career as an itinerant lecturer. Stewart lectured and wrote essays until September 1833, when she delivered her ‘Farewell Address to Her Friends in the City of Boston’, after which she travelled south and took up a career as a teacher. Forty-five years later, having succeeded in obtaining a war widow’s pension, she used some of that money to publish a book of her speeches, together with a biographical sketch, and essay called ‘Sufferings during the War’ where she wrote about her experiences teaching, some poems and letters of commendations by friends and colleagues: Meditations from the pen of Mrs Maria W. Stewart

Stewart’s first piece was published in The Liberator but in the Ladies’s Department

Stewart received very little education, having been orphaned at the age of 5 and sent to work as a servant for a cleric’s family, and none besides Sunday school. But she knew the few books she had read well, and used them in her writings so that there are references to the old and new testament, but also a now obscure book by an English John Adams, published in London in 1790 called Woman, Sketches of the History, Genius, Disposition, Accomplishments, Employments, … By a Friend of the Sex.

After her marriage to James W.Stewart, she found a mentor in the abolitionist David Walker , who died an untimely and probably murderous death in 1830, one year after James’s death. In An address delivered at the African Masonic Hall, Boston, 27 February 1833 she is referring to him when she asks: 

‘But where is the man that has distinguished himself in these modern days by acting wholly in the defense of African rights and liberty? There was one, although he sleeps, his memory lives.’

An address delivered at the African Masonic Hall, Boston, 27 February 1833.

Much of Stewart’s writings are deeply religious. But her religion is always aimed at philanthropy, and in particular, the bettering of the conditions of life of African Americans. Even in the prayer which concludes her first publication she asks God to help the ‘sons and daughters of Africa’ become more virtuous and religious so that they may carve a better place for themselves in America, and so others may recognize their value, as African Americans. 

Grant that the young man may be constrained to believe that there is a reality in religion, and a beauty in the fear of the Lord. Have mercy on the benighted sons and daughters of Africa. Grant that we may soon become so distinguished for our moral and religious improvements, that the nations of the earth may take knowledge of us; and grant that our cries may come up before your throne like holy incense. Grant that every daughter of Africa may consecrate her sons to you from the birth. And do you, Lord, bestow upon them wise and understanding hearts. […] Oh, you mothers, what a responsibility rests on you! You have souls committed to your charge, and God will require a strict account of you. It is you that must create in the minds of your little girls and boys a thirst for knowledge, the love of virtue, the abhorrence of vice, and the cultivation of a pure heart. The seeds thus sown will grow with their growing years; and the love of virtue thus early formed in the soul will protect their inexperienced feet from many dangers. O, do not say, you cannot make anything of your children; but say, with the help and assistance of God, we will try. . . 

Religion and the pure principles of morality, the sure foundation on which we must build

But progress, she says at the beginning of that same essay (as other women before and after her have said, including Mary Wollstonecraft and Anna Julia Cooper), can only come through religion, education and virtue: 

“Never; no, never will the chains of slavery and ignorance burst till we become united as one and cultivate among ourselves the pure principles of piety, morality, and virtue.”

Although much of her writings addresses the African American population in general, and challenges them to become virtuous through education, Stewart takes particular care to address the plight of African American women who are bound not only to ignorance, but to the domestic work of their ‘ fairer sisters, whose hands are never soiled, whose nerves and muscles are never strained’ :

“Shall it any longer be said of the daughters of Africa, they have no ambition, they have no force? By no means. Let every female heart become united and let us raise a fund ourselves; and at the end of one year and a half, we might be able to lay the corner-stone for the building of a high school, that the higher branches of knowledge might be enjoyed by us; and God would raise us up, and enough to aid us in our laudable designs. Let each one strive to excel in good housewifery, knowing that prudence and economy are the road to wealth. Let us not say, we know this, or, we know that, and practice nothing; but let us practice what we do know.

How long shall the fair daughters of Africa be compelled to bury their minds and talents beneath a load of iron pots and kettles? Until union, knowledge, and love begin to flow among us. . . . We have never had an opportunity of displaying our talents; therefore the world thinks we know nothing.” (.)

Religion and the pure principles of morality, the sure foundation on which we must build

She also defends women’s education in general, and of her own suitability as a public speaker in her farewell address. ‘What if I am a woman?’ she asks. To answer that question, first she appeals to St Paul, who claimed women should never speak in public that ‘Did St. Paul but know of our wrongs and deprivation, I presume he would make no objections to our pleading in public for our rights.’ 

She then follows Adams’ history of remarkable women, highlighting a 13th century ‘young lady of Bologna’ who studied latin and the law, pronounced an oration in church at 23, got a doctorate in law at 26, and was given a chair at 30. This is a reference to Bettisia Gozzadini, (1209-1261).

As well as defending the rights of the African Americans, Stewart attacks white American’s treatment of Native Americans in An address delivered at the African Masonic Hall, Boston, 27 February 1833.

‘The unfriendly whites first drove the Native American from his much loved home. Then they stole our fathers from their peaceful and quiet dwellings, and brought them hither, and made bond-men and bond-women of them and their little ones; they have obliged our brethren to labor, kept them in utter ignorance, nourished them in vice, and raised them in degradation; and now that we have enriched their soil, and filled their coffers, they say that we are not capable of becoming like white men, and that we never can rise to respectability in this country. They would drive us to a strange land. But before I go, the bayonet shall pierce me through. African rights and liberty is a subject that ought to fire the breast of every free man of color in these United States, and excite in his bosom a lively, deep, decided and heart-felt interest.’

An address delivered at the African Masonic Hall, Boston, 27 February 1833.

As well as the indivudual texts linked in this post, all Stewart’s essays are collected in Maria W. Stewart, America’s first black woman political writer. Essays and Speeches. Edited and introduced by Marilyn Richardson. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.

A good introduction to Stewart can be heard in Chike Jeffers and Peter Adamson’s series on Africana Philosophy for the History of Philosophy Without any Gaps podcasts:

The page for the podcast also contains a bibliography. Please don’t hesitate to send me links and titles to other works on Stewart and I will add them here.

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Call for Post-Doc Fellowships with New Narratives.

 Extending New Narratives Postdoctoral Fellows 2020-21 Academic Year 

Supported by the SSHRC Partnership Grant, Extending New Narratives in the History of Philosophy, postdoctoral fellows will conduct research related to the retrieval and recognition of philosophical works by women and individuals from other marginalized groups from the medieval period through to the early 20th century, as well as assist in activities aligned with the project. While we are currently developing the website for the precursor to this project to reflect this new project, some information about the new project objectives can be found at The new project will extend many activities and develop new ones to cover not only the early modern period but also the medieval period, Renaissance, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries (up to 1940). Two (2) post-doctoral positions are available for this academic year, to be held at one of the Partner institutions (SFU, Western, Guelph, McGill, Duke, Penn, Columbia, Monash, Sydney, Lyon-3, Nanterre, and Jyväskylä): the two postdocs will not be appointed at the same institution. While Canadians will be able to be appointed to positions at non-Canadian institutions, non-Canadians can be appointed to positions only at Canadian institutions. 

The successful applicants will have a PhD in Philosophy (within the past five years), expertise in a period in the history of philosophy, and a demonstrated interest in research and pedagogy involving women thinkers and thinkers from other marginalized groups of that period. Experience with a range of digital media would also be helpful. 

Appointments will be for a period of 12 months, ideally September 1, 2020-August 31, 2021. However, because of the Covid-19 situation, and potential delays in securing necessary documentation (work permits, etc.), we are open to appointments that start as late as January 1, 2021. 

Salary: CAD $50,000/year + benefits. Please email completed application form, a letter of application, CV, description of a project to be worked on during the post-doc (no more than 750 words), and 3 letters of reference electronically to the ENN Management Committee at Review of applications will begin 15 July 2020 

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Wollapalooza! III Update

 APSA 2020 is going to happen virtually this September. This will include the Wollapalooza III workshop which will take place online on 8 or 9 September (watch this space for confirmed day and time).

Details about the virtual conference are here. Registration details are not yet up, but will be soon. 

Our event is listed under Events > Short Courses > SC23.

We’re not yet entirely sure how we will proceed, and what the logistics on offer will be, but our preference, given how many of us come from Europe, will be to upload presentations in advance, so we can all listen to them during our own daytime (even if the question and answer sessions might not work out that way). Given that presentations should be short (under 12 minutes for panels, and under 10 minutes for roundtables), recording them in advance should be manageable and may even make Q&A more vibrant and interesting when we attend conference sessions “live” on Zoom. Also, hopefully we can “archive” the presentations on our Wollstonecraft Philosophical Society website so that there is a public access/ public education dimension to our (hopefully, now) annual event. 

We will keep you informed as we find out more. In the meantime please let us know whether you would still like to participate in the event. We very much hope you will. 

Before we go, we wanted to say something about our take on the Black Lives Matter movement.

We—Alan, Eileen and Sandrine—as individuals, as Wollstonecraft scholars, and as the organisers of Wollapalooza!, stand with the BLM movement. 

Black lives have been systematically – both structurally and intentionally – targeted and abused. Wollstonecraft anticipated this argument in her critical analysis of slavery and other forms of despotism and oppression. So did many of the women and men of the nineteenth century, such as the African-American political thinkers and freed slaves Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs, as well as Frederick Douglass, whom we have discussed and plan to discuss at Wollapalooza! Their analyses are as insightful and important today as they were then. 

Wollstonecraft would have made a staunch #BLM advocate and we hope that in some way we can measure up to what she would expect of us. Please let us know if you have any idea for showing our support to #BLM through our event and in public advertising for it via Twitter. 

In solidarity,

Eileen Hunt Botting
Sandrine Bergès
Alan Coffee

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Mary Prince: A History of Mary Prince.

This is the first in a series of posts on Africana women philosophers.

It’s very much a work in progress, and I invite any one who is able and willing to contribute to it, either by sending me material to add, reworking this post, or writing a guest post for this blog or sending a link to a post elsewhere.

Mary Prince (1788-after 1833)

Author of A History of Mary Prince (1831) the first slave narrative authored by a woman. 

Note on the Text: 

Prince was partially literate and her narrative was transcribed by Susanna Strickland and edited by the abolitionist writer Thomas Pringle. There are some questions about the nature of her authorship (Wheelock), just as there are in the case of Sojourner Truth’s Narrative, taken down by Olive Gilbert. But in Prince’s case, it seems that most one can question is how much was censored (either by herself or by her editors) of her treatment by her masters. 

The text I used was A Will to Be Free, Vol. II: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Narrative of Sojourner Truth; The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, (Kindle format).

Like other slave narratives, it follows a structure (Starr), detailed below.  

Elements of the Narrative:

1) birth and parentage

Born in slavery in Bermuda in 1788, Prince lived with her mother until she was 12. Her father lived in a nearby plantation.

2) Life as a slave: 

At 12 she was sent to work as a child-minder, then sold to a brutal owner (who also brutalized his own wife) then to another even worse, and taken to work in salt pans on Turk’s Island in 1806, where she stayed for 10 years before being brought back to Bermuda. Sold again in 1818, she married a free man in Antigua, but was unable to make a life with him. Prince was taken to Britain in 1828 to work as a maid, launderer and child-minder. She walked out on free soil a few months later. 

3) Understanding of one’s status as a slave:

Each time she is sold to a new master – from the very first time when she is separated from her mother – moved from one place to another, given a different job, or in one case brought back after an attempted escape, she realizes afresh her status as human property, and the outrage to the liberty she knows is owed to her. 

4) Planning escape: 

Prince tries to buy her own freedom and to have someone else buy it for her. She never succeeds. Once she runs away from unbearable beatings, but she is brought back by her own father who does not see any other options for her. 

5) Escape: 

In the end she is able to escape because the family she works for has brought her to England, where they cannot legally hold her as a slave. Her master and mistress threaten her with expulsion, and she is at first reluctant to leave, as she doesn’t know where to go. But eventually, exhausted and ill, she seeks refugee with members of an abolitionist club. 

6) Free life.

Prince became a servant in a household. She never obtained legal liberty from her masters, and because of that, was not able to go back to her family in the West Indies. 


What is distinct about female narratives, as opposed to those authored by men is that there’s often a sexual element. Another distinction, more important in the narratives of Jacobs and Truth is the relationship to children (Larabee). 

Prince suffers not only from beatings, hard forced labour, abandonment during the frequent periods of illness caused by her work conditions, but also sexual abuse. The abuse is understated in the book, as is her sex life in general, almost certainly to the prudery of the abolitionists who took down, edited and published her narrative. But some passages are nonetheless revealing: 

He had an ugly fashion of stripping himself quite naked, and ordering me then to wash him in a tub of water.This was worse to me than all the licks. Sometimes when he called me to wash him I would not come, my eyes were so full of shame.

A strong them, common to all slave narratives, is freedom: the realization that one doesn’t have it, but is owed it, of its value, striving for it, and persuading free people that freedom is valuable and desirable for all. This last theme is particularly present in Prince’s narrative who is confronted both with her mistress’s denial of the value of freedom for Mary Prince, and later with English people’s criminal refusal to see that freedom is valuable for all:

Mrs. Wood was very angry—she grew quite outrageous—she called me a black devil, and asked me who had put freedom into my head. “To be free is very sweet,” I said: but she took good care to keep me a slave. I saw her change colour, and I left the room.

Oh the horrors of slavery!—How the thought of it pains my heart! But the truth ought to be told of it; and what my eyes have seen I think it is my duty to relate; for few people in England know what slavery is. I have been a slave—I have felt what a slave feels, and I know what a slave knows; and I would have all the good people in England to know it too, that they may break our chains, and set us free.

I am often much vexed, and I feel great sorrow when I hear some people in this country say, that the slaves do not need better usage, and do not want to be free. [ The whole of this paragraph especially, is given as nearly as was possible in Mary’s precise words.] They believe the foreign people, [She means West Indians.] who deceive them, and say slaves are happy. I say, Not so. How can slaves be happy when they have the halter round their neck and the whip upon their back? and are disgraced and thought no more of than beasts?—and are separated from their mothers, and husbands, and children, and sisters, just as cattle are sold and separated? Is it happiness for a driver in the field to take down his wife or sister or child, and strip them, and whip them in such a disgraceful manner?—women that have had children exposed in the open field to shame! There is no modesty or decency shown by the owner to his slaves; men, women, and children are exposed alike. Since I have been here I have often wondered how English people can go out into the West Indies and act in such a beastly manner. But when they go to the West Indies, they forget God and all feeling of shame, I think, since they can see and do such things. They tie up slaves like hogs—moor [A West Indian phrase: to fasten or tie up.] them up like cattle, and they lick them, so as hogs, or cattle, or horses never were flogged;—and yet they come home and say, and make some good people believe, that slaves don’t want to get out of slavery. But they put a cloak about the truth. It is not so. All slaves want to be free—to be free is very sweet. I will say the truth to English people who may read this history that my good friend, Miss S-, is now writing down for me. I have been a slave myself—I know what slaves feel—I can tell by myself what other slaves feel, and by what they have told me. The man that says slaves be quite happy in slavery—that they don’t want to be free—that man is either ignorant or a lying person. I never heard a slave say so. I never heard a Buckra man say so, till I heard tell of it in England.


(1) Andrea Starr Alonzo, ‘A Study of Two Women’s Slave Narratives: “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” and “TheHistory of Mary Prince”’  Women’s Studies Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3/4, Women’s Nontraditional Literature (Fall – Winter, 1989), pp. 118-122

(2) Mary Jeanne Larrabee (2006) ‘“I Know What a Slave Knows”:

Mary Prince’s Epistemology of Resistance’, Women’s Studies, 35:5, 453-473,

(3) Stefan M. Wheelock  “Dividing a nation, uniting a people: African American literature and the abolitionist movement” in The Cambridge History Of African American Literature, Maryemma Graham And Jerry W. Ward, Jr. 2011, 66-91

(4) Barbara Baumgartner, “The Body as Evidence: Resistance, Collaboration, and

Appropriation in ‘The History of Mary Prince,’” Callaloo 24 (Winter 2001): 253–


(5) Edlie L. Wong (2001) “Turned out of doors:” voluntary return and captive agency in the case of Mary prince, Prose Studies History, Theory, Criticism, 24:3, 59-72, DOI: 10.1080/01440357.2001.10382965

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JOB: History of Philosophy Postdoctoral Research Associate (12 months, O.4 FTE) at Durham University

The successful applicant will work on the AHRC project Inventing Time: Past, Present, and Future in British Metaphysics 1878-1938. The role involves producing original research to further the project, and supporting an existing scholarly network around the project. All these activities can be completed remotely.

Applicants are expected to be early career historians of philosophy, possessing relevant PhD or postdoctoral research expertise in late nineteenth/early twentieth century history of philosophy, or history of philosophy of time, or historical women philosophers, or some related area.

The closing date for this post is 5th July 2020. Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post on 1st October, 2020, but an alternative start date is negotiable. For more information and to apply online, please visit:

Philos-L “The Liverpool List” is run by the Department of Philosophy, University of Liverpool

Messages to the list are archived at Recent posts can also be read in a Facebook group:

Follow the list on Twitter @PhilosL. Follow the Department of Philosophy @LiverpoolPhilos

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Africana Women Philosophers

A series of posts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting here about the lives and works of women philosophers belonging to the Africana tradition. By Africana, I mean, following Lucius T. Outlaw jr’s Stanford Encyclopedia Entry: 

Africana philosophy is a third-order, metaphilosophical, umbrella-concept used to bring organizing oversight to various efforts of philosophizing—that is, activities of reflective, critical thinking and articulation and aesthetic expression—engaged in by persons and peoples African and of African descent who were and are indigenous residents of continental Africa and residents of the many African Diasporas worldwide.

Although what prompted this series are current events – the worldwide public demonstrations to demand the end of police violence against people of color in the United States and elsewhere – encouraging philosophers to find out about women philosophers in the history of philosophy is very much what this blog is about. 

I discovered many of these women by researching 19th century American feminist philosophy. It’s interesting to note that many prominent white women philosophers of the time completely failed to engage with their black colleagues, even though they often fought for the same issues. Finding out about women of color who did philosophy in 19th century America requires an extra effort. Increasingly, philosophers are addressing this issue and recovering work by Africana women philosophers of the past. It is through these scholars and the invaluable resources they put together that I was able to come up with the preliminary list  below. In building this list, I used Lucius T. Outlaw jr’s Stanford Encyclopedia Entry, Chike Jeffers and Peter Adamson’s Africana series on History of Philosophy without any Gaps, for Sojourner Truth and Frances Harper and Maria W. Stewart, tweets by Chike Jeffers’ on Anna Julia Cooper and Melvin Rogers on Ida B. Wells, and Alan Coffee’s ongoing work on the republican thought of Harriet Jacobs. 

My knowledge of these philosophers is very basic. So what I plan to do in these posts is merely state a few facts and list resources. I encourage readers who know more to contact me if they wish so that I can add to these skeleton posts over the coming months. Any one wanting to write a complete post – or fragments of a post – is especially welcome to get in touch. Feel free also to let me know if there’s an Africana woman philosopher you would like to see in this list. Please write to or tweet to @sandrineankara.

Mary Prince (1788-after 1833)

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)

Maria W. Stewart (1803-1879)

Harriet Jacobs (1813 or 1815 – 1897)

Frances Harper (1825-1911)

Anna Julia Cooper (1859-1964)

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)

Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

Alice Dunbar Nelson (1875-1935)

Sylvia Wynter (b. 1928)

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Book celebrating the work of Anscombe, Foot, Midgley, and Murdoch

From Philos-L:

The Royal Institute of Philosophy is very pleased to announce the publication of a book celebrating the work of Anscombe, Foot, Midgley, and Murdoch, the collected papers from the 2019 London lectures.  You can find details here, including the editor’s overview:

You can watch most of the talks on our YouTube Page too, right here

Our thanks to the contributors for a great series and a fascinating volume.  

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Sanders Prize in the History of Early Modern Philosophy

Call below is an opportunity for early career researchers to showcase their work on Early Modern Women philosophers!

The editor of Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy is pleased to announce that submissions are now being received for the third Sanders Prize in the History of Early Modern Philosophy. The Sanders Prize in the History of Early Modern Philosophy is a biennial essay competition open to scholars who are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. or students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. Independent scholars may also be eligible, and should direct inquiries to Donald Rutherford, editor of Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy at

The award for the prizewinning essay is $5,000. Winning essays will be published in Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy. This year’s deadline is October 1, 2020.

For more details on submissions, see:

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Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in the TLS!

This week’s Times Literary Supplement features not only Emma Clery’s review of The Wollstonecraftian Mind (edited by Sandrine Berges, Eileen Hunt Botting and Alan Coffee for Routledge) and of Mary Wollstonecraft in Context  (edited by Nancy Johnson for Cambridge), but also a fantastic article by Eileen Hunt Botting on Mary Shelley’s 1822 diary, the Journal of Sorrow.


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Zoom talk on Maria von Herbert by Saniye Vatansever, 30/04/2020, 16:40 GMT+3

Consolation of Kant’s Philosophy: The Stoic Elements in Kant’s Letter to Maria von Herbert

By Saniye Vatansever (Bilkent, Philosophy)

Date: Thursday April 30, 2020

Time: 1640-1800  GMT+3

Zoom link: This is an online event. All are welcome. If you would like to listen to the talk please click on the following link when the event is due to begin:

Abstract: In this paper, I examine the letter correspondence between Kant and Maria von Herbert, an Austrian woman who is well-versed in Kant’s moral philosophy. Herbert writes three letters to Kant and we only have access to Kant’s reply to her first letter. In her letters, Herbert explains her misery and seeks consolation from Kant in person as she claims that she couldn’t find comfort in philosophy. Thus, she raises interesting philosophical questions regarding the immorality of suicide, the dullness of leading a dutiful life, and consolation of philosophy. Whether Kant provides satisfactory answers to her questions is a matter of controversy. According to Rae Langton, Kant’s reply to Herbert simply ignores Herbert’s questions and that negligence on Kant’s part might be due to the underlying assumption that the less said on suicide, the less likely the morbid thoughts will arise. Contra Langton, I argue that by analyzing the nature of Herbert’s actions and the underlying causes of her feelings, Kant attempts to change Herbert’s negative emotions leading to suicidal thoughts. In other words, Kant aims to provide consolation and comfort to Herbert by helping her rationally analyze the causes of her destructive emotions. By doing so, Kant acts as a stoic philosopher attempting to transform the false judgments leading to negative emotions with the correct ones.

About the speaker:  click here.

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