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Mary Telfair: The Life and Legacy of a Nineteenth-Century Woman

ISBN: 9781929490127
Publisher: Frederic C. Beil Publisher
Edition: First Edition
Publication Date: 2002-11-01
Number of pages: 544
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This is a detailed examination of the life of a most remarkable woman. Born in 1791, Mary Telfair grew up in Savannah, Georgia, where she was the daughter of a wealthy merchant-planter and three-term governor of Georgia. Although reared in the South, she bore no kinship to the plantation mistress living in isolation---alienated by paternalism and male domination. Rather she belonged to an elite circle of urban Southerners who felt as much at home in the drawing rooms of Philadelphia and New York as in the parlors of Charleston and Savannah.

As Johnson writes, "Mary Telfair was her own woman, but she affirmed her identity within the framework of good manners, decorum, and taste demanded of women of her station." Many of the country's leading figures passed through the lives of the Telfairs, and the Telfairs were related to, or close friends with, most of the prominent families in Savannah and the Georgia upcountry---relationships fully explored in this work.

Johnson's legal training played a significant role in enabling him to unravel the climactic event in Mary Telfair's story---the great Telfair will contest, one of the epic legal battles of the nineteenth century. Drawing on a stunning amount of research, Charles Johnson reveals the choices and originality of a woman of vision. The result is an unforgettable portrait---a "must read" for anyone interested in nineteenth-century Southern history and women's studies.

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