Trimmer, Sarah (1741–1810)

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Trimmer, Sarah (1741–1810)

English author. Name variations: Sarah Kirby. Born Sarah Kirby on January 6, 1741, in Ipswich, England; died on December 15, 1810, in London; daughter of John Joshua Kirby and Sarah (Bull) Kirby; married James Trimmer, in 1762; children: six daughters; six sons.

Sarah Trimmer, an author of popular children's stories and treatises on education, was born in Ipswich, England, in 1741, the daughter of John Joshua Kirby and Sarah Bull Kirby . Her father, an artist, encouraged Sarah to write and provided her with a good education in literature. After moving his family to London, John Kirby introduced Sarah to London's literary community, where she formed a friendship with Samuel Johnson. At age 21, Sarah married James Trimmer, a government bureaucrat of Kew who shared her literary interests. After settling in London, the couple had 12 children, who were educated by their mother at home. Trimmer did not approve of the educational texts available at the time, believing many of them to be frivolous or amoral, and she began writing her own lessons, combining them with stories of religious instruction. By 1780, her friends had convinced her to publish her stories as Easy Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature. The book went into numerous editions and was well received, encouraging Trimmer to publish more collections of stories throughout the 1780s, including her most popular book, The History of the Robins. Her works were pioneering in English children's literature in their use of illustrations as an aid in learning.

Trimmer also turned her pen to treatises on educational issues, and gradually emerged as an active proponent of widespread, religiously oriented popular education. Throughout the 1790s and early 1800s, she helped establish local schools to teach vocational subjects to the poor. With the assistance of her husband and olderchildren, Trimmer then launched Family Magazine, stories and articles intended for adults to read with their children, which they produced between 1778 and 1789. This popular magazine was followed by Guardian of Education, a periodical review of new children's literature which was often deeply critical of other writers. Her teachers' guides were widely adopted in England, as was her illustrated New and Comprehensive Lessons, which was continuously in print until 1830.

Sarah Trimmer remained an active writer and publisher long after her children were grown. She died in 1810, at age 68.


Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Yarde, D.M. The Life and Works of Sarah Trimmer, a Lady of Brentford. London: Hounslow History Society, 1971.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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