Sarah Kemble Knight (1666–1727)

Author of The Journal of Madam Knight

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Sarah Kemble Knight was born in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, then a British possession, to Thomas Kemble, a prosperous merchant, and his wife Elizabeth Trerice. In 1689, she married Richard Knight, a sea captain who was considerable older, and had one child. She managed many of the family's business responsibilities, such as running a shop in Boston and taking in lodgers, and was called Madam Knight as a mark of respect. Her husband died in 1703, and she began to teach school in Boston and work as a court scribe, making copies of legal documents and writing letters for people having business with the court. In 1704, she decided to travel on horseback from Boston to New York City on behalf of a widowed relative to help in the settlement of her late husband’s estate. It was an unprecedented and courageous feat for a woman at this time. She recounted her experiences during the five-month roundtrip journey in a diary that made her famous to students of American colonial literature and history. It passed into private hands and was unknown until 1825, when it was published as The Journal of Madam Knight, edited by Theodore Dwight. Sarah Knight described the discomforts of early 18th-century travel in a lively fashion and with some humor, and provided detailed descriptions of the early settlements in New England and New York and impressions of the people she encountered, interspersed with poetic interludes. In 1713, her daughter married John Livingston of Connecticut, and she moved with them to New London, where she continued her business and land dealings and kept an inn.
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