The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle: Marriage, Murder, and Madness in the Family of Jonathan Edwards

Ava Chamberlain. New York Univ, $27.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-8147-2372-2
In most biographies of Puritan theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards, his paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Tuttle, is a shadowy figure, a madwoman whose disruptive behavior marked her as the antithesis of the submissive Puritan goodwife. Chamberlain, a professor of history at Wright State in Ohio, searches for clues to the identity of Elizabeth Tuttle and recreates a mesmerizing drama of the breakdown of one family in a society bound by stringent concerns for order in family and society. Chamberlain reveals that Tuttle went through a series of traumas. Her marriage to Richard Edwards was troubled because of class differences between the two and because of a baby born seven months after the marriage, whom Richard suspected was not his. Then, 10 years after Elizabeth’s marriage, her brother Benjamin inexplicably murdered their sister Sarah. Elizabeth’s grief, anxiety, and depression caused her marriage to break apart: Richard depicted her as having failed to fulfill her duties as a wife and divorced her, a serious blow in a society where a woman’s role was defined by family. Recovering a lost chapter of early American intellectual and religious history, Chamberlain reveals not a harridan but a woman whose life was ruined by wrong choices and inconsolable griefs. Illus. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/13/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
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