Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§13 Sarah Town Martyn
(1805–1879)

Sarah Martyn was born in New Hampshire. Her father, Reverend Ethan Smith, a Congregational minister, educated her at home. Martyn volunteered in the temperance and abolition movements for most of her adult life. She edited a number of religious and women's magazines, including the Ladies' Wreath, which she founded. The American Tract Society published more than twenty of her books; most were historical fiction set around the time of the Reformation. She was married to Reverend Job H. Martyn, also a Congregational minister. They lived with their four children in New York City and Wausheka, Wisconsin.33

Like Ashton's work, Martyn's book, Women of the Bible (1868), is marked by its romanticized approach to biblical women. She appealed to the reader's imagination and wondered about Adam's and Eve's imagination. While Martyn clearly recognized the historical distance between the world of the biblical text and her own world, she attempted to minimize this distance by appealing to the similarity of feeling and passion between the women of the Bible and the women of the nineteenth century. Martyn's discussion of Eve and Adam as parents helped her make the connection between her readers and the biblical characters. Martyn was aware that Genesis story could be read as myth. She appreciated the sparse narrative style of the Hebrew text, as well as the poetic and mythic qualities of the story.

33 "Martyn, Sarah Towne (Smith)," American Authors 1600–1900: A Biographical
Dictionary of American Literature
, ed. Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycroft (New York: The
H. W. Wilson Co., 1938), 512.

-71-

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