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Female Genius: Eliza Harriot and George Washington at the Dawn of the Constitution (Zoom Program)
Thursday, February 15, 2024 | 4:00pm - 5:30pm EST
A Discussion for Judges with Professor Mary Sarah Bilder
Moderated by: Hon. Robert B. Foster
*This is a Zoom program*
From the Publisher:
In this provocative new biography, 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.
Female Genius reconstructs Eliza Harriot’s transatlantic life, from Lisbon to Charleston, paying particular attention to her lectures and to the academies she founded, inspiring countless young American women to consider a college education and a role in the political forum. Promoting the ideas made famous by Mary Wollstonecraft, Eliza Harriot brought the concept of female genius to the United States. Its advocates argued that women had equal capacity and deserved an equal education and political representation. Its detractors, who feared it undermined male political power, felt deeply threatened. By 1792 Eliza Harriot experienced struggles that reflected the larger backlash faced by women and people of color as new written constitutions provided the political and legal tools for exclusion based on sex, gender, and race.
In recovering this pioneering life, the richly illustrated Female Genius makes clear that America’s framing moment did not belong solely to white men and offers an inspirational transatlantic history of women who believed in education as a political right.
Mary Sarah Bilder is Founders Professor of Law at Boston College Law School and author of the Bancroft Prize–winning Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention. She teaches in the areas of property, trusts and estates, and American legal and constitutional history. Her recent scholarship focuses on the early history of the Constitution: the concept of a Framing Generation; Native Nations and the 1787 Constitution; the early constitutional status of women; written constitutionalism as a new genre; James Madison’s Notes of the Convention; the history of judicial review; and colonial and founding era constitutionalism. For more information, please visit: https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/schools/law/academics-faculty/faculty-directory/mary-sarah-bilder.html
Advance registration is required for this educational program. A complimentary copy of Female Genius: Eliza Harriot and George Washington at the Dawn of the Constitution will be distributed in advance to the first 50 judges who register.