Hannah Webster Foster

Hannah Webster Foster books and biography

Hannah Webster Foster

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Hannah Webster Foster (September 10, 1758 – April 17, 1840) was an American novelist.

Her epistolary novel, The Coquette; or, The History of Eliza Wharton, was published anonymously in 1797. Although it topped the American bestseller lists of the 1790s, it was not until 1866 that her name appeared on the title page. In 1798 she published The Boarding School; or, Lessons of a Preceptress to Her Pupils, a commentary on female education in the United States.

Biographical Details

Born in Salisbury, Massachusetts, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, it is likely that Foster (ne Webster) attended an academy for women like the one she described in The Boarding School; certainly, the literary allusions and historical facts that populate her work indicate an outstanding education.

In the 1770s she began writing political articles for Boston newspapers, and in 1785 she married a Dartmouth graduate, the Rev. John Foster. The two settled in Brighton, Massachusetts, where John Foster served as a pastor at First Church.

She bore six children, after which she wrote her two books and subsequently returned to newspaper writing. When her husband died in 1829, she moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to be with her daughters, Harriet Vaughan Cheney and Eliza Lanesford Cushing, who were popular writers in the nineteenth century. She died in Montreal, aged 81.


Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 4th ed. vol. 1. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

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The Coquette, The History Of Eliza Wharton

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