Rachel Cope

Although Catherine Livingston Garrettson (1752–1849) initially encountered feelings of isolation upon converting to Methodism, she discovered that the written word allowed her to engage in relational rather than solitary religious experiences. Over time, the written word helped her create a web of meaningful ties with imagined and actual kin and motivated her to form, develop and foster additional relationships in multiple contexts. Garrettson’s story thus demonstrates the need to consider how the real and imagined communities encountered through reading and constructed through writing have played a role in the spiritual development of early American women. Indeed, women’s experiences serve not simply to explain aspects of American social development, but to illuminate their broader world of connections – familial, religious, social and literary.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library