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Ellet, Elizabeth Fries (Lummis) (1812 or 1818–1877) - U.S. Women’s History

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Elizabeth Fries Ellet, said to be the first historian of women, was born in Sodus, Lake Ontario, New York, to William Nixon Lummis, a physician, and Sarah (Maxwell), his second wife. (Throughout her lifetime, Ellet gave 1818 as her birthdate, but her birth certificate says 1812.) She attended the Female Seminary in Aurora, New York, and married Dr. William H. Ellet, professor of chemistry at Columbia College, New York City, in 1835. The two lived in Columbia, South Carolina, until 1849, when they returned to New York City. During this time, Ellet began writing poetry and tragedies based on historical events.

In 1848 Ellet’s interests turned to women’s history. She wrote two volumes of Women of the American Revolution and finished a third volume in 1850. The book covered the lives of 160 women who played a part in or commented on history. This work was considered to be the first of its type. That same year, Domestic History of the American Revolution was published. In 1852 she wrote Pioneer Women of the West , and in 1859, the year of her husband’s death, Women Artists in All Ages and Countries was published. In 1867 she wrote The Queens of American Society , a history of “manners, fashions, prominent hostesses in Washington and other social centers, famous balls, visiting foreign celebrities, and socially dominant families.” In 1869 she and Mrs. R. E. Mack wrote Court Circles of the Republic; or, The Beauties and Celebrities of the Nation , a book on statesmen and their “leading Ladies” under eighteen presidents from Washington to Grant. Elizabeth Ellet died in New York City on June 3, 1877.

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