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Deborah Norris Logan (1761–1839)

Author of Memoir of Dr. George Logan of Stenton

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Deborah Norris was born into an influential Philadelphia family. She was the oldest daughter of Charles Norris, a Quaker merchant, and his wife Mary Parker Norris. Their home was close to Independence Hall, and in later life, Deborah recalled listening to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, when she was 14 years old. She attended Friends Girls School in Philadelphia, the first public girls' school in North America, and also educated herself through an intensive course of reading. One of her friends at school was the future diarist Sarah "Sally" Wister. In 1781, Deborah married George Logan, a physician, with whom she had three sons. Two years after their wedding, they moved into Stenton, a mansion in the Germantown neighborhood, where they entertained a wide circle of artists, writers, politicians, and businessmen. Deborah presided as hostess for these gatherings but also developed her own career as a writer and historian. Up in the attics at Stenton, Deborah discovered a trove of old letters between William Penn and his secretary, her husband's grandfather James Logan. Recognizing the letters' potential significance to history, she started transcribing and annotating them in 1814. She also began keeping a diary that eventually grew to 4,000 pages (17 volumes), describing her life at Stenton and views on public and life in the new USA, as well as valuable historical and genealogical material on the Norrises, Logans, and other early Pennsylvania families. After her husband died in 1821, Deborah wrote his biography under the title Memoir of Dr. George Logan of Stenton, eventually published in 1899. The complete Benjamin Franklin-James Logan correspondence was eventually published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in two volumes in 1870-1872. However, many years before that, Deborah had become the first woman elected to membership in the organization. Her own memoirs and some of the letters she transcribed were published together in 1830 in the Annals of Philadelphia. Charles Willson Peale painted her portrait, which still hangs at Stenton.
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