Judson, Emily Chubbuck

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JUDSON, Emily Chubbuck

Born 22 August 1817, Eaton, New York; died 1 June 1854, Hamilton, New York

Wrote under: Emily Chubbuck, Fanny Forester, Mrs. Emily Judson

Daughter of Charles and Lavinia Richards Chubbuck; married Adoniram Judson, 1846; children: three

Emily Chubbuck Judson's self-taught skills enabled her to teach in local schools from 1832 to 1840. Enrolled at the Utica Female Seminary for one year, she remained there as a teacher of English composition from 1841 to 1846. She rose from poverty eventually to find fame and wealth with her early children's books. With the income from those books, she was able to buy her family a home and to make their lives comfortable. Judson's short life span of 36 years was a full and varied one. Her writing career divides into three clearly defined phases; in each she wrote under a different name.

Publishing under the name Emily Chubbuck, Judson wrote several successful children's books between 1841 and 1844. Like other mid-19th-century writers, Judson writes consciously as an American and as a "republican." Her fiction is for young Americans, and all the stories are heavily moralistic and didactic. For example, the stories in Charles Linn; or, How to Observe the Golden Rule (1841) have the theme of self-sacrifice. In "The Selfish Girl," Julia has to cripple her schoolmate Sally before she realizes how selfish she is. Sally is, however, even improved by her accident; her brother "thought his sweet sister could scarcely be as lovely if she were not a cripple." "The Mother's Story" describes a vain little girl who has to contract smallpox to be taught humility.

Publishing under the name of Fanny Forester, Judson wrote stories with a completely different tone, changing from the previously moral tone to one of irony and fancy. The sketches gathered into Trippings in Author-Land (1846) reveal a writer enjoying the world she was creating and perhaps enjoying the recreation of herself as Fanny Forester, a character in that world. Two more volumes continued to construct the village of Alderbrook, Lilias Fane, and Other Tales (1846) and Alderbrook (1846), which contained some of the same tales from Lilias Fane. Simplicity and unpretentiousness is praised; village life is uncomplicated and contains a community unknown to the larger, sprawling urban scene.

Fanny Forester returned several times to the character Ida Ravelin, a genius, a poet, an angel (all synonyms in these stories), as she created her vision of the poet who is "not like them" but who can live completely in the ideal. By the time a revised edition (1847) of Alderbrook was published, Judson wished to suppress Ida Ravelin and substitute "Angel's Pilgrimage," a very different story of human greed, murder, and cruelty, in which the angels try to change the world by continuing the holy mission begun by their prototype, Christ. The work published under Fanny Forester continued to bring Judson money and fame. Alderbrook went through at least 11 editions.

The third phase of Judson's career began when she left the imaginary world of Alderbrook and entered into missionary life, marrying the Reverend Adoniram Judson, who was nearly 30 years her senior, and going to Burma with him and three of his children from his second marriage. In this phase, she published a Memoir of Sarah B. Judson (1849, reissued several times, including 1980), her husband's second wife. This volume by its popularity furthered the cause of the missionaries. Printed in both London and New York, it was reprinted several times for a total of over 30,000 copies. Less popular, The Kathayan Slave (1853) is a defense of missionary activity and maintains that the barbarism of the natives of Burma and India can only be alleviated through Christianity.

It is clear from The Kathayan Slave that Adoniram Judson's pioneering efforts in missionary work were not always supported by his contemporaries; their attacks after his death in 1850 prompted Judson's defense. Although she never became a legendary heroine on the order of Ann Hasseltine Judson, Adoniram Judson's first wife, or of Sarah Boardman Judson, his second, she did much to further their fame and to support, by her writing, the work of her husband after his death.

Her life and work indicate some of the tensions and contradictions inherent in mid-19th-century America, its commercialism and also its idealism. Perhaps these tensions led her to frame her literary answer to them by assuming three different identities. These three different literary personalities, the didactic Emily Chubbuck, the frivolous and charming Fanny Forester, and the defensive Mrs. Emily Judson, need not coalesce into one personality, although the prevailing opinion is that identity is such a synthesis. In some writers the paradoxes of their cultures cause them to produce ambiguous and morally contradictory works. In others these same paradoxes produce moral absolutism in the writing and ambiguity in the identity of the writer herself. Judson was such a writer.

Other Works:

The Great Secret; or, How to Be Happy (1842). Allen Lucas: The Self-Made Man (1843). John Frink; or, The Third Commandment Illustrated (1844). How to Be Great, Good, and Happy (1848). A Mound is in the Graveyard (ca. 1851). An Olio of Domestic Verses (1852). My Two Sisters (1854).


Douglas, A., The Feminization of American Culture (1977). Hartley, C. B., The Three Mrs. Judsons: The Celebrated Female Missionaries (reissue, 1980). Kendrick, A. C., The Life and Letters of Mrs. E. C. Judson (1860). Pattee, F., The Feminine Fifties (1940). Stuart, A. W., The Lives of Mrs. Ann H. Judson and Mrs. Sarah B. Judson, with a Biographical Sketch of Mrs. E. C. Judson (1851). Wyeth, W. N., Emily C. Judson: A Memorial (1980).

Reference works:

AA. CAL. DAB. FPA. NAW (1971). NCAB.


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