Catharine Maria Sedgwick

Biographical Information

Catharine Marie Sedgwick was born on December 28, 1789 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts into a prominent New England family. Her father, Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813), was a lawyer and politician, who would later serve on the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, and her mother was Pamela Dwight. Her economic status as a young woman from an upper class family, contributed to her education and social circles, which she provided her with the connections to write and influence. Later in life, she converted from Calvinism to Unitarianism, which influenced much of her literary work. Although she did not marry, she was briefly engaged to Mr. B. Harmanus Bleecker, who was her brother Theodore’s Law partner. Sedgwick wrote a plethora of popular novels and other writings during her literary career. Sedgwick passed away on July 21, 1867 at the age of 77 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Married or Single?

Married or Single? was published in 1857 and is considered a work of domestic fiction, which grew rapidly in popularity in the nineteenth century. The novel was republished by Deborah Gussman in 2015 with an introduction. Sedgwick’s goal was “to change American attitudes about single women, from ridicule to respect.” (Gussman ix) She was a respected author and literary influence.  The novel twists and turns through the life of the protagonist Grace Herbert, along with other characters. As the story unfolds before the  reader, Grace faces challenges of creating her own life and figuring out the question–to be married, or to remain single? Ultimately, Grace marries at the end of the novel. Yet, the main theme is that the choice is not whether it is right to become married or single, but to marry or remain single for the right reasons.

Other Novels

  • A New-England Tale (1822)
  • Hope Leslie (1827)
  • Clarence; or A Tale of Our Own Times (1830)
  • The Linwoods; or Sixty Years Since in America (1837)


Sedgwick, Catharina Maria. Clarence, or, a Tale of Our Own Times, edited by Melissa J. Homestead and Ellen A. Foster, Broadview Press, 2011.

Sedgwick, Catharine Maria. A New-England Tale: or, Sketches of New England Character and Manners, edited by Victoria Clements, Oxford University Press, 1995.

Sedgwick, Catharine Maria. Hope Leslie; or, Early Times in the Massachusetts, edited by and Carolyn L. Karcher. Penguin Books, 1998.

Sedgwick, Catharine Maria.  Married or Single? edited by Deborah Gussman, University of Nebraska Press, 2015.

Sedgwick, Catharine Maria. The Linwoods, or, “Sixty Years Since” in America, edited by Maria Karafilis.University Press of New England, 2002.

“Sedgwick Pie.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Nov. 2019,

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Catharine Maria Sedgwick.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 July 2019,