Although Judith Sargent Murray is best known for her feminist essay "On the Equality of the Sexes" (q.v.), she was a political theorist and philosopher whose interests ranged from economic issues to models of industriousness, modes of philanthropy, and reflections on both religion and "Heathen mythology." Equally diverse in her attention to literary styles and genres, Sargent Murray wrote several essays on the emergence of American literature. One of her most significant articles was "Panagyric on the Drama", in which she details the rise of American drama and, with satiric flourish, defends not only the writing of dramas but public performances as being appropriate to the times: a new age demands new modes of literary representation just as it demands new laws. Sargent Murray wrote several works of drama, including The Medium; or, Virtue Triumphant ( 1795) and The Traveller Returned ( 1796),1 but her most significant contributions to American drama may be her early critical assessments of the emerging genre. As in all of Sargent Murray's writings, her specific interest is in women's attitudes toward and contributions to the arts. Thus she extends her study of American drama in a later essay, "Observations of the Tragedies of Mrs. Warren"; this essay constitutes an early example of literary criticism by a woman, and it reflects Sargent Murray's concern that women's contributions to literature not be lost to future generations.
Works: The Gleaner: A Miscellaneous Production. 3 Vols. Boston: Thomas & Andrews, 1798, rpt., ed., Nina Baym; Harris, ed., Selected Writings of Judith Sargent Murray.____________________