"[A] book that not only broadens and complicates our understanding of education during the American Enlightenment but also offers us a previously unpublished diary of a fascinating figure from early nineteenth-century America."
—The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
"[R]eaders may find in this document a valuable prospect on the complicated operations of female moral instruction."
—William and Mary Quarterly
In Ways of Wisdom, Jean Friedman traces how Jacob Mordecai and his family, German American Orthodox Jews, adopted the Anglo-Irish enlightened pedagogical system developed by Richard Lovell Edgeworth and his daughter Maria. In 1808 Mordecai founded the Warrenton Female Academy on the enlightened principles described in the Edgeworths’ guide, Practical Education, and he enlisted family members to teach and manage the school. Rachel Mordecai, inspired by her father’s progressive methods, initiated an Edgeworthian experiment in home education on her young stepsister, Eliza. Rachel’s diary, reproduced in full in Ways of Wisdom, chronicles the moral instruction of Eliza. While retaining the traditional didacticism of wisdom literature, the diary also describes Eliza’s resistance to enlightened discipline and method.
Friedman’s case study bears particular importance for scholars as it qualifies and enriches our understanding of the American Enlightenment as an amalgam of religious and ethnic assumptions rather than a universal acceptance of Liberalism or Republicanism. Ways of Wisdom also offers an illuminating reinterpretation of “Republican Motherhood” as a culturally diverse and politically complicated domestic paradigm.