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Rufus W. Griswold, The Republican Court, or, American Society in the Days of Washington. New and rev. ed. (New York, 1856), plate opposite 271. First ed., 1855.


Pamela Dwight was raised in a well-to-do family, with wealthy western Massachusetts landowner Ephraim Williams, benefactor of Williams College, her maternal grandfather. She was the only daughter of Brigadier General Joseph Dwight and his wife Abigail Williams, and had just one sibling, her brother Henry.

Pamela grew up in Sheffield, Massachusetts, well away from the spotlight of the Republican Court until she married Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813). Sedgwick became an important politician on both state (Massachusetts) and federal levels, holding a series of elected offices and serving in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. Sedgwick was often a guest at George and Martha Washington’s dinner parties during the years Philadelphia was the nation’s capital.

Pamela, however, was probably not very well known to the members of Philadelphia society, as she remained at home in western Massachusetts to care for their eight children while Sedgwick was away. She did, however, attend Mrs. Washington’s first levee in Philadelphia. Of her, Rufus Griswold writes: “Mrs. Theodore Sedgwick, in whom were combined the finest graces of the New England matron, was conspicuous for a charming face, and an air and manner of singular refinement and grace.”[1]

According to Catharine Sedgwick, the second-to-youngest child, who became a published writer, her father’s separation from the family was difficult for all of them, but hardest for her mother, who fell victim to recurring episodes of mental illness. As Theodore Sedgwick’s political career continued to blossom, his wife’s health spiraled downward. Pamela Sedgwick passed away in 1807, at the age of fifty-four.

Written by Annie Turner.            

Additional Sources:

Timothy Kenslea, The Sedgwicks in Love: Courtship, Engagement, and Marriage in the Early Republic (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2006).

Catharine M. Sedgwick, Life and Letters of Catharine M. Sedgwick (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1871).


[1] Rufus W. Griswold, The Republican Court, or, American Society in the Days of Washington (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1867), 326.


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