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COLLECTION Identifier: A/A652

Letter of Frances Theodora Apthorp, 1788


Letter of Frances Theodora Apthorp to Perez Morton regarding their affair and the birth of an illegitimate child.


  • Creation: 1788

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the letter created by Frances Theodora Apthorp is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library or whomever. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1 folder

Scribal copy of five letters written by Frances Theodora Apthorp written between August 20th and August 27th, 1788 to Perez Morton in diary form with suicide notes.


Frances "Fanny" Theodora Apthorp, daughter of James and Sarah Wentworth Apthorp, was born in Boston in 1766. In the mid-1780s, she went to live with her older sister, Sarah Apthorp Morton, and her husband, Perez Morton. Fanny and Perez engaged in an affair that resulted in the birth of a daughter probably in 1786 or 1787. Some time later, she returned to the Morton household, and appears to have resumed the affair. Fanny may have been pregnant again at the time of her suicide, on August 28, 1788. Tales of her death, including her alleged suicide note spread widely within a youth culture of sentiment and sympathy. William Brown’s The Power of Sympathy, widely considered to be the first American novel, contains a fictionalized account of the affair.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 89-M92

The Letter of Frances Theodora Apthorp was acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Edward C. Echols in 1989.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital surrogates of the items in this collection are available through Harvard Library's Worlds of Change online collection.

Processing Information

Processed: May 1989

By: Anne Engelhart

Updated and additional description added: October 2020

By: Mark Vassar

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Elsie Rodd Fund in the Schlesinger Library.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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